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Things I Know 
in Religion 


A Preface to Faith 





Copyright, 1930, by Harper &; 

Brothers Printed in the XL S. A. 





My Beloved Successor in the 

Pulpit of the City Temple 

With Admiration and 

















peared in the Atlantic Monthly and two in 
The Christian Century, while the title ser- 
mon formed a part of a symposium entitled 
What Religion Means to Me, edited by Sherwood Eddy, 
who kindly allows me to use it. The first two sermons 
have been used effectively in various colleges and uni- 
versities Harvard, Columbia, Princeton, Iowa, Vassar 
in chapel services and group discussions. The under- 
lying emphasis all through is an appeal to experience, 
as over against outward authority and arid argument, 
as the basis of faith, seeking the roots of religion in 
the nature and need of man, and its fulfillment and 
verification in the struggles we pass through in fellow- 
ship with God and our fellows, 

J, F. N. 

St. James's Church, 

Things I Know 
in Religion 


Now I know m part; but then shall 
I know even as also 1 am known. 
i Cor, 13:12. 


that he did not know. He saw in a glass darkly, he 
prophesied in fragments. That is to say, respecting 
much that he deeply desired to know, he was a Chris- 
tian agnostic, as we all must be. Our human mind is 
limited, our vision is dim. On this bank and shoal of 
time we can see but a little way ahead, and every ray 
of light is tipped with darkness. 

There was a time in the life of St. Paul when he 
knew much more than he did when he wrote this Hymn 
of Love; a time when he knew more and loved less. 
Like some of the rest of us, St. Paul had been trained 
in a system of theology in which little was left un- 
known. His teachers knew the nature of God, the 
names and number of the angels, and the end of all 
things. As often happens, his knowledge made him 
narrow, bigoted, and intolerant, as if it were not sure 
of itself. Uncertainty lies at the heart of all intolerance, 
doubt is the basis of bigotry. Happily, an explosive ex- 


perience had blown the old theology of St. Paul to bits, 
leaving his house of dogma an utter and hopeless 
wreck. He was never able to pick up the pieces and 
put them together again. 

Nor did he care to do so. Old things had passed 
away; all things had become new. Something strange 
and wonderful had happened, defying analysis and 
baffling speech. Life had now another basis, a deeper 
meaning, and a new dynamic. He himself was "a new 
creation/' as he tells us, living in a new world of 
lengthening vistas and lifting skies. If he knew less and 
loved more, finding in love the way to the truth most 
worth knowing, the things he now knew were far more 
vital and profound than the dogmas of other days. He 
humbly admitted that he knew only in part, perhaps 
,a tiny part, but his knowledge was not only more real 
as far as it went, but, somehow, more vivid and satis- 
fying. If he still had a habit of trying to prove by logic 
what he had learned by love, it was hardly more than 
a habit. His argument always ended in an anthem, and 
often in an ecstasy of joy. 

A Christian saint here used the same word that a 
modern agnostic uses, albeit with a different accent and 
emphasis. Much depends upon the tone of voice and 
heart in which we say that we do not know. It may be 
said in a tone of sad finality, if not dogmatic denial, 
implying that there is nothing to know, and that we 
are doomed to perpetual spiritual idiocy. Such an atti- 
tude was alien to the mind of St. Paul, who was neither 
negative nor neutral, as so many are today. The issues 
involved were too profound, too f ar-reachiiig. One can- 



not think of St. Paul singing the plaintive minor mu- 
sic of our time, half query and half protest. Never! His 
music was akin to that high, heroic, lonely voice echo- 
ing across the ages, "I know that my Redeemer liv- 
eth," flinging out his faith in the teeth of tragedy. As 
he himself said elsewhere, "I know whom I have be- 
lieved, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that 
which I have deposited with him." In other words, he 
thought expectantly, as one who knew that there is 
always truth ahead, mote truth to be known, truth more 
amazing than we have yet imagined. 

/Such should be our attitude today, in the midst of 
thfc amazing advance of knowledge; and it would be 
but for the extraordinary spiritual inferiority complex 
which afflicts us. How strange that the human mind, 
in the very hour of its triumph, should be smitten with 
spiritual paralysis, ending in obfuscarion, as if bludg- 
eoned by bulk and suffocated by size. Surely the mind 
capable of the scientific discoveries of our generation 
is not untrustworthy in its spiritual adventures the 
soul of Jesus is surely as much to be trusted as the reve- 
lations of a test tube! It is obviously more difficult for 
one who begins to believe today than it was for one 
whose faith was matured in the tiny, cozy, more 
friendly universe in which some of us grew up, before 
science had pushed the walls of the world back out of 
sight and taken the roof off. But that is only temporary, 
and asks for a more thrilling adventure. Foe the mo- 
ment the old religious charities are blurred^ but the 
realities remain, and the mist will lift 
greater faith. 


In the meantime there is confusion, and inevitably so, 
because our religious insight has not adjusted itself to 
the new universe which science has unveiled. Nor has 
science, for that matter it is dumb and amazed as its 
basic ideas are analysed and found to be only symbols 
and shadows. They err who imagine that science is all 
fact and religion all faith. At bottom all our thinking 
rests upon faith faith in the reality of truth, faith in 
the power of the mind to reach the truth; and what 
is learned by faith becomes, in turn, the basis of fur- 
ther faith. It is a paradox but not a contradiction, since 
faith and fact mingle in our quest of truth in every 
field. Faith is "reason grown courageous"; and facts 
point the direction in which faith flies. The truth is that 
both science and religion have become more modest, 
each finding that it needs the other the one to find 
facts, the other to find meanings. Hence my desire to 
tell not what I believe, but what I know in religion, 
the facts upon which my beliefs are based and built, 
and may have to be rebuilt. If I tell it as a personal 
experience, it is because that is what it is. 


Here we are in an amazing universe, alive, active, 
thinking, dreaming, loving, seeking to know the mean- 
ing of the world and our place and duty in it. Mani- 
festly, then, if there is any key to the riddle it must 
be found in something within ourselves, since we can- 
not leap outside ourselves to discover it. Nor do we 
need to do so, because we are within nature, not op- 


posed to it but a part of it. Man is not an alien in the 
universe but a child, not exotic but indigenous; and 
this means that in values, as in consciousness, we are 
on the inside, and have in our own nature a clue to its 
meaning. Nay, more; we are agents, actors, partici- 
pants in the actual life of the universe, not mere spec- 
tators of reality but part of it part of "the thing-in- 
itself," as the philosophers say. Since this is so, what is 
part and parcel of ourselves is unassailable by any 
uncertainty, and to the measure of our capacity we can 
know what the universe is by what it is in us and to us. 
By the same token, if there is a spiritual element 
in man, which no one denies, it must have come from 
the universe itself, if not from physical nature then 
from some Power behind and within physical nature, 
else it would not be in man. Also, the spiritual quality, 
so to name it, must be greater in the universe than in 
man, since its development in man is still so incom- 
plete. Here, truly, is a firm basis of faith, built into the 
very structure of our being, and the first jact upon 
which I build is the moral sense in man. Here it is, 
Booted in the very bottom of our being, interpret it as 
you like an impulse, an insight, an inner censor, an 
awful whisper of command as much a part of the 
universe as pig iron or potash; something which has 
never accepted utter identification with outer force or 
brute fact. At the core of consciousness is conscience, 
a sense of right and wrong, an inexorable demand for 
obedience to an inner law. If it be only an agnostic 
resignation to a# inner decency, it is here within us, 
unmistakably so. Like everything else, it may vary with 



race, custom, depth of insight and degree of develop- 
ment, but it is a fact of nature and life. The mystery 
of man is not that he does wrong, but that he is aware 
of it. Somehow, no one knows how though one may 
have beliefs about it man is aware that he is made 
for righteousness, and that he can never be a man, much 
less a happy man, until he is a righteous man. 

The two overwhelming mysteries, as Kant said, are 
the still depth of a starlit sky and the silent whisper of 
the moral law in the soul of man; and one is as real as 
the other. Explain the moral life of man how you will, 
describe it as infantile inhibition of humanity, as the 
fashion now is; declare it to be only an echo within us 
of an old ancestral memory, or the shadow of an an- 
cient fear that is only to push the mystery further 
back and deeper down. The origin of the moral life, 
the initial bias toward righteousness remains to be ac- 
counted for. There is in man what Woolman called "a 
stop in the mind," something which arrests us and 
compels us to pass moral judgment upon our thoughts 
and acts. It is here within me, unaccountably. I did not 
create it. Whether I can destroy it or not I do not know. 
It commands me, whether I will or no. When I obey 
it, I am happy; when I disobey it, I am thwarting my 
own nature and defying the law of my very being. To 
explain it away is not to send it away. If I drive it out 
the door, it comes in at the window and issues its edict. 

Upon this fact, then, we may build, as Robertson did 
when, as a young man, sorely troubled about his faith 
and the meaning of his life, he went to the Alps to fight 
it out. The only thing which the analysis could not 


dissolve and destroy was the moral law within, and 
so, "clinging obstinately to moral good/' in spite of 
himself, he built upon that firm basis the edifice of his 
faith. As he put it picturesquely: if vice should lead to 
some white heaven, and virtue plunge us into some red 
hell, still virtue is better than vice, and honor is nobler 
than dishonor. Something deep in us, profound beyond 
our ken, answers, "Yes, it is true." Of course, if so 
much is true, much more must be true about ourselves 
and the universe; but I am dealing only with what I 
know, not with the details of belief. At any rate, con- 
science is the corner-stone of theology, the basis and be- 
ginning of any belief worth holding; the fact upon 
which and about which we may organize our faith. 


The second thing that I know is no less sure; it is that 
I have the power to choose what is right and to refuse 
what is wrong) or, contrariwise, to choose the wrong 
and refuse the right. Having done both, I know that 
it is true. At once we are faced by a vague fatalistic 
philosophy now in vogue, albeit hoary with age, which 
tells us that we are no more responsible for what we 
do than we are for the shape of our heads and the 
color of our eyes. No doubt it is plausible and many 
facts may be arrayed in its behalf; but every man knows 
that it is false. When Dr. Johnson had heard all the 
facts in favor of fatalism, he brought his old cane down 
with a thump and said: "I know I am free, aad that 
is the end of it" 


Fate is a fact, and so is freedom. Much of our life 
is ordered for us by fate, and runs in grooves which it 
must follow; most of it is fixed before we arrive. The 
time and place of our birth, our race, nationality, par- 
entage, color, constitution, early environment all are 
arranged without our knowledge or desire. Hands cold 
and dead seem to shape our lives from the grave. 
Tethered alike by nature and history, and inured to our 
bondage, we are not aware how beset we are until we 
awake to the facts. Still, as Emerson asks, if Fate is all, 
who and what is it that pries into the facts? Even limi- 
tation has its limits, and it is the fate of man to be 
free. Hedged about, restricted, enmeshed in a network 
of laws, his liberty is none the less real because it is 
limited, as it must be of necessity by the fact that he 
is finite, as well as by the nature and purpose of his life. 

Just the same, as Tennyson said, if we are birds in a 
cage, we decide whether we are to sit on the upper 
perch or the lower. If Fate is supreme, then there must 
be a Higher Fatalism which includes moral law and 
the quest of truth, obedience to which sets us free. Or 
perhaps we may say that the will of man is free in that 
it is not compelled, but limited in the sense that it is 
impelled by the law of its own being, as well as by the 
pervasive and ultimately persuasive influence of the 
good, which is stronger than evil. However we explain 
it, surely a limited liberty is better by far than the sla- 
very of a fetterless freedom. One often thinks of the 
words of St. Theresa when she wished for a torch and 
a bucket of water. With one she would burn up heaven 
and with the other put out the fires of hell, in order 


that man might choose the good because it is good, 
and reject evil because it is evil. 

Any sort of liberty is a danger, and may be a disaster. 
Huxley said he was quite willing to be an automaton, 
if he could be wound up and set going, assured that 
he would always do right; it would make life more 
simple. Happily, it is impossible. Man is not a machine, 
he is an organism; a moral being who must take the 
risk and peril of liberty, winning a good character or 
losing it, falling to rise, often baffled but still fighting 
on. Every man knows it is true; it is a fact given us by 
life and our own souls attest it. The record of human 
experience, as far back as we can go, confirms the real- 
ity and peril of the moral life, its glory and its pathos. 
Whole civilizations have "withered into tired dust" be- 
cause they did not obey the moral law, turning life 
into a form of death. 


Even the moral life, with its awful law and its per- 
ilous liberty, is not all that we find within these "little, 
infinite human souls." There is something else; some- 
thing elusive, ineluctable, irresistible, unconscious oft, 
unsatisfied ever; something free and flaming a mo- 
tion and a passion that runs beyond duty,, beyond right- 
eousness., in 'quest of goodness. It is linked with our 
love of beauty; it is akin to poetry, if by poetry we 
mean "distance, loneliness and singing"; a sense of the 
Beyond by which we know that the horizons are not 
garden walls and the stars are more than lights in a 



cottage window. A wild, sad joy, an unutterable sigh 
lying in the depths of the soul, one hears it breathing 
through the literature and liturgy of man; a loneliness 
that wakes with him in the morning, a wistfulness that 
haunts him at eventide. What art may hope to ensnare 
this thing that stirs us deeper than any words can tell, 
a mystery, a wonder and a divine desire? As Chesterton 
said it in song, 

For men are homesick in their homes, 

And strangers under the sun, 
And they lay their heads in a foreign land 

Whenever the day is done. 

No one can define religion; it breaks through all 
language and escapes. At once a mystery and a mad- 
ness, no one can tell what it will do or become next, 
except that it will do some impossible thing and talk 
about it in parables. One day it gives us a militarist 
like Cromwell, the next a pacifist like Tolstoi or 
Gandhi. It turns Fra Angelico to art, and the Puritans 
against art. In one age it created the drama, and in the 
next prohibited it. It fashions a stately Roman proces- 
sion and a quaint Quaker bonnet; the Gothic glory of 
a cathedral its tower a nesting place of dreams and 
the drabness of a country meetinghouse. It inspired 
Peter the Hermit, who led hosts across a continent to 
fight for an empty tomb, and Francis of Assisi who 
kissed a leper and preached to the doves a vision to 
haunt our dreams. It contrives theologies and composes 
anthems. Clinging in its conservatism, it yet dares the 
far reach and search after the final goal and good of 


life, passing all frontiers in "the cold, high glory of the 

An acute awareness of unattained possibility, a sense 
of "the beyond that is within," religion is to morality 
what genius is to talent, as love is to duty. Talent does 
what it can, toiling terribly at its task, and proud of its 
work. Genius does what it must, moved by a swift, 
N creative impulse, with an effortless ease that is un- 
* aware of toil. No wonder talent is vain, and genius 
humble. Duty does what is required; love does all it 
can, pouring out its treasure even upon the most un- 
worthy object, bearing all things, believing all things, 
,p hoping all things. No moral law would have sent Jesus 
to the Qoss, or Damien to serve the lepers. If left to 
^itself, untaught by reason and unrestrained by moral 
law, religion may be a plague, sinking into all sorts of 
superstition. When the three toil together, it is re- 
ligion that makes life now a lyric, now an epic, lifting 
our fleeting days on wings until they blend with the 
(UEternal Life. 

[P A gleam, if nothing more, of this eternal mysticism 
*jls in all of us, though we may not be aware of it; 
^ something of the strange power that draws stones to- 
gether into the mellow beauty of an old cathedral, its 
steps worn by myriad feet. It makes us at home in all 
places where men lift hands in prayer, where bums 
"the lamp of poor souls" to guide the wandering feet 
of humanity. Pity and piety are akin, and they blsnd 
in a tender pathos such as made me want to stop at 
every wayside shrine left standing on the battlefields 
of Flanders and pray for friend and foe alike, lost in a 


night of war, dark, dreadful and confused. If religion 
seems to divide, at last, set free, it will link into unity 
all holy places of all ages, giving thanks for the one 
truth that hallows the earth, rejoicing in each shrine 
for the beauty entrusted to it. 


There is another thing that I know, as I know noth- 
ing else: both my moral sense and my religious nature 
shy, lonely, wistful, adventurous find fulfillment 
and satisfaction in the life, personality and character 
of Jesus, as nowhere else. To me Jesus is a mystery/ he 
outtops my knowledge. A friend of mine asked Ber- 
trand Russell two questions: Do you fully understand 
the Einstein theory of relativity? and do you go with 
him all the way? Quick as a flash the great mathema- 
tician replied: "I answer the first question in the nega- 
tive, and the second in the affirmative." That is exactly 
my attitude toward Jesus. He baffles my mind, but he 
searches my heart and sways it as no one else cai> do. 
His tragic Figure of heroic moral loveliness subdues 
me, chastens me, challenges me, redeems me. His moral- 
ity is so spiritual, and his spirituality so moral, so, high 
yet so haunting at once pure and purifying and so 
winsome withal, and dyed in all the hues of human life. 
Without him moral law seems stern, awful, impossible;, 
with him it walks beside me, incarnate in a Friend, 
who seeks and finds me, teaching me to follow him 
by making me love him. Such purity, such heroism, 


such love-anointed goodness, such healing sympathy 
and fearless faith break my heart and mend it. 

To me Jesus is a dream come true, a vision verified, 
the lost, ineffable Word made flesh and then spirit 
again; the Life that interprets life, revealing a tender 
love hidden in a terrible mystery. A thousand ques- 
tions about him baffle me utterly, yet even my per- 
plexity about him is precious. Besides, the questions 
which he seems to ask me are far more searching than 
any I can ask about him. Others seem able to draw the 
mystic line which divides the human and the divine, but 
I cannot. I have no such skill. An old, craggy creed 
tells me that Jesus is of one substance with God, and 
I believe it is true; but I do not know it. Indeed, I do 
not know what the substance of man is, much less 
what the substance of God may be. In fact, I do not 
know what any kind of substance is. We do not think 
in such terms today. With us a thing is what it does. 
Even matter has become a mystery; it melts under our 
very gaze into a whirling energy, leaving the material- 
ist nothing to stand on. Such thoughts and things ;^re 
beyond my competence, outside my ken. 

But Jesus is very real and near, at once august and 
intimate, in spite of piled-up ages, and his words move 
me like great music, as if they knew all my hopes and 
fears and dreams. Nay, more; in a way I cannot explain 
even to myself, he is able to unlock doors in my nature 
accessible to no one else and enter, a dear, implacable 
Friend. When he is with me, faith is not the pressure of 
a veiled hand hidden in the unseen, much less an act 
of pure intellect, but a deep friendship. More than that 


my words cannot tell. A student in the Harvard Di- 
vinity School, of the class of 1913, wrote the following 
lines, which have been set to music by Lowell Mason. 
They tell what we can know about Jesus, which we may 
learn of his fellowship, summing up in simple words 
things for which words were never made: 

I know not how that Bethlehem's Babe 

Could in the Godhead be; 
I only know the Manger-Child 

Has brought God's life to me. 

I know not how that Calvary's Cross 

A world from sin could free; 
I only know its matchless love 

Has brought God's love to me. 

I know not how that Joseph's Tomb 

Could solve death's mystery; 
I only know the living Christ 

Our immortality. 

One other thing I know, too, beyond the shadow of 
doubt or cavil: soon or late I must obey the vision of 
moral power and spiritual beauty I have seen in Jesus: 
1 can never be happy until I do. But, if we needs must 
follow the highest when we see it, we must have help 
for the adventure, and we can get it. This, too, I know 
with an assurance made doubly sure by the testing of 
time and trial. The church, in spite of its faults and 
failings, is a profound help. Of course a man can edu- 
cate himself as Lincoln did, through lonely years of 


study. But the quest is much more inspiring in the 
stimulating air of a university, in the fellowship of men 
seeking light. The church is "a society for the promo- 
tion of goodness in the world/* as Arnold said, and to 
unite in an historic fellowship of men seeking goodness 
is both an inspiration and a consecration. It is like 
climbers of the Alps who tie themselves together, so 
that if one slip all hold him up. 

Times without number, in the midst of the years, I 
have had reason to thank God that I entered the Church 
as a boy, bowed at its altar, and took upon me its high 
vows. It has been a restraint, a reinforcement, a refine- 
ment. As Swinburne said of Tennyson in old age, before 
he crossed the bar: "It is an inspiration just to know 
that he is there"; just to know that he is keeping the 
light of poetry aglow. Again and again it has been a 
help to me, and a challenge, just to know that a society 
of men seeking goodness exists, humble folk keeping 
the faith, loyal to the ideal, following with faltering 
steps a heavenly vision. How often in history men have 
reviled the church, only to find in a wild and fateful 
hour that it is the keeper of all the sanctities. Few are 
happy about the church as it is today. Its petty debates 
repel, its archaic methods annoy, its theological mu- 
seum is a lumber room of antiques. But it is the House 
of God, the place where His name is holy and where we 
may hallow it in our hearts. 

The Bible is a help, too, though, alas, it is so little 
known and used by those who would love it best if 
they sought its counsel. Of theories about the Bible 
there are many, but none of them account for its age- 



enduring influence and power. The theories pass, but 
the Bible remains the supreme book of the soul, more 
like a force of nature than a work of artless art. 
Whether it is infallible or not nobody knows. In order 
to know that I should have to be infallible myself, and 
then I would not need it. One thing is true: the Bible 
grew out of a deep spiritual life, and when rightly used 
and obeyed it will create in us, infallibly, the kind of 
life which created it. It speaks with an authority of 
insight, of ages of tragic and triumphant experience, 
alike in the granitic solidity of its prose and in the 
flaming splendor of its poetry and prophecy. It is a wise 
and faithful guide; some of its pages are bread and 
meat and milk to me. 

Also, there is help for all who ask for it in prayer; 
I know it because I have tried it. No philosophy can 
fathom the secret of prayer. Any theory of it is but an 
outer scaffolding on the wall of the temple, far from 
the inmost altar where the fret and btrden of life are 
taken away. At once a fact and a mystery, it is as blessed 
as it is baffling. Whether we call it fellowship with 
God or adjustment to the universe, it deals directly 
with reality wherein, as Dante told us, lies our peace. 
Of all forms of human effort, prayer is the most pro- 
foundly practical, if we add the will to listen and work 
for its answer. One reads the life of St. Theresa with 
mingled awe and joy, remembering the eighteen years 
she devoted to the mastery of this highest of all arts. 
What amateurs we are, hardly knowing the alphabet 
of prayer as if the disciplines of the life of the spirit 
were less exacting than those of art! 



These things I know beyond a doubt, and upon them 
I build a working faith for today and a singing hope 
for the morrow. Moral law and liberty, the sense of 
the Infinite in the finite, the fascination and challenge 
of the life of Jesus, and what the Prayer Book calls 
"the means of grace" life cannot be ignoble or worth- 
less when it gives us such guidance in a world where 
there is truth to seek, love to win, work to do, and 
beauty to adore. It is a capacity for the highest, and 
by faith founded on f act we can make it a happy, high- 
hearted adventure, and bring down to the Gate in the 
Mist something that ought not to die. 

We Believe 

Notes oj a sermon-address to a student group 
at the University of Pennsylvania, followed by a 
forum discussion. If the address covered a vast 
territory, the questions asked- traversed a much 
wider area. However, the thesis remained un~ 
shaken, and it disarmed much debate. 


Lord, increase our faith. 

Luke 17:5. 


trying to see in detail the fashion of things to be, mak- 
ing theology an Atlas of Eternity. In reaction against 
what it deems the overbelief of the last generation our 
age has fallen into an underbelief, far below what is 
its right. If our fathers asked how good is the most that 
we can mean by the word "God/' their sons inquire 
how real is the least we can mean by it. Today men are 
haunted by the fear that faith is too good to be true, 
whereas in other days they felt that even the highest 
faith is not good enough to be true. 

One result of the underbelief of our day is the trag- 
edy of trying to live a maximum life on a minimum 
faith; and it cannot be done. No wonder men go to 
pieces under the strain of it. AUjqrajrf jllsJbeskjis^ 
^becau^e^we lack support from a source hid in the un- 
seen. How strange: in an age which will have no in- 
hibitions many are actually inhibiting the finest faculty, 
if not the supreme capacity, of human nature. They 
ignore or suppress an unseen element of thought and 
yearning out of which is born the quest for a Reality 



which inspires, justifies and satisfies the best in us. 
What we need is not faith in more things, but more 
faith in a few profound things which make us men, 
whence men in all ages have derived inward sustaining 
and hope. 

What makes us believe anything at all? There must 
be some necessity in us which requires faith and begets 
it, otherwise man would not make such amazing af- 
firmations about the worth and meaning of life. Why 
do we believe? Is it because our fathers before us be- 
lieved? Partly, no doubt; and that is a good enough 
reason, lest we break the mystic continuity of inherit- 
ance in respect to the highest life. Our finest hope, said 
George Eliot, is our finest memory. But why did our 
fathers believe? Had they learned to understand? Em- 
phatically not. Really we understand next to nothing 
in the universe even matter is a mystery, and the 
nature of gravitation and cohesion is a closed book. 
Many things are inscrutable, if not utterly incredible, 
yet they are true, and, if true, they cannot be absurd. 
Clearly it was not understanding, but experience, that 
led our fathers to hold a high, heroic faith. 

Nor do we believe because we have proved the truths 
of faith. Very far from it. Proof! Proof! is the cry of 
our generation, not knowing what it asks. Faith can 
neither be demonstrated nor argued down, else it would 
not be faith. If we could prove God in the manner of 
a theorem of geometry, He would be only a theorem, 
and not the God we need and seek. God is God just 
because a proof that would put Him beyond the reach 
of all possible denial is impossible and absurd just 

2 4 


because He can and does confirm Himself against all 
denials and contradictions, being Himself the author 
of the issues which prompt those denials and contra- 
dictions. Also, such proof as men demand, and think 
they are wise in demanding, is by nature a compul- 
sion; and nowhere is compulsion more out of place than 
in the life of the spirit since both God and man must 
be free. 

Why, then, do we believe? Let us dig down to the 
roots of religion down below the dogmas of every 
creed and discover, if possible, the basis of belief. 
For, every man knows that we are moved most deeply 
not by the many things we try to believe, but by the 
elemental things which we cannot persuade ourselves 
to deny, without resigning our manhood. Obviously 
man would not need religious faith, still less invent it 
let alone embark upon its adventures if the Object 
of it did not exist, since he did not create the condi- 
tions which evoke and require it. There would be noth- 
ing to suggest it, nothing to sustain it. Manifestly, so 
vast a fact and force as religion is a part of the reality 
and sanctity of life, having its warrant in the order 
of the universe, as well as in the nature and need 
of man. 

Life is first; philosophy follows after. The Reality 
with which religious faith has to do is given us by life 
itself, as a primary experience, and it has about it an 
immediacy and an ineffability which belong to all pri- 
mary perceptions. That is to say, there is a mystical 
element in it which knowledge can never wholly cap- 
ture, much less formulate. What is given in primary 


experience furnishes the data and sets the problems for 
reflection, but it is not exhausted in any exposition. 
There is always a margin of mystery baffling the 
thinker, as there is a haunting beauty which eludes the 
artist. As Goethe said, the Ultimate Reality can never 
be uttered; it can only be~ acted, and m our efforts to 
ehs'nare it in a web of words we may lose the Unut- 
terable Truth, before which silence is wisdom and 
wonder becomes worship. 


Let us begin at the beginning, taking the first Truth 
and the last, God the Eternal; God infinitesimally vast. 
Our faith in God involves our whole being, and is 
born of feelings, yearnings, hauntings, intuitions and 
thoughts which defy analysis; it is the account which 
life gives of itself when it is healthy, wholesome and 
free. Life and love, joy and sorrow, pity and pain and 
death, the blood in the veins of man, the milk in the 
breast of woman, the laughter of little children, the 
coming and going of days, radiant beauty and blinding 
tragedy, all the old, sweet, sad, human things which 
make up our mortal lot these are the basis of our 
faith in God. It is older than argument, profounder 
than debate, as old as the home and the family, as ten- 
der as infancy and old age, as deep as love and death. 

It is so historically, as far back as human records 
go. Men lived and died by faith in God the Nameless 
One of a hundred names long before philosophy was 
born, or ever theology had learned its alphabet. If we 


have ears, we may hear penitential psalmists praising 
God on yonder side of the pyramids; and in the Valley 
of the Kings, five thousand years ago, Ikhnaton wrote 
of the unity and purity of God, celebrating a Presence 
revealed, yet also concealed, in the strange and solemn 
beauty of the world. So run the annals of the ages, 
testifying to the verity of God in the life of man. Yes, 
there has been denial of God in every age, because, 
as Tolstoi told Gorki, man thwarts his own soul, in- 
hibits his finest impulses, and inflicts injury upon his 
highest nature. One thinks of the old saint and the 
young nobleman in War and Peace, and how, when 
the Count said with a sneer that he did not believe in 
God, the old philosopher smiled, as a mother might 
smile at the silly sayings of a child. Then in a gentle 
voice the old man said: 

"You do not know Him, sir, and that is 
why you are very unhappy. But He is here, He ; 
is within me, He is in my words, He is in 
thee, and even in these scoffing words that 
thou hast just uttered. If He were not, we 
would not be speaking of Him. Of Whom 
were we speaking? Whom dost thou deny? 
Who invented Him, if He be not? How came 
there within thee the conception that there is 
such an incomprehensible Being?* ' Something 
in the eyes of the Count betrayed his long- 
ing to know God, and the old man, reading 
his face, answered the unasked question of 
his heart. "Yes, God exists, but to know Him 



is hard. It is not attained by reason, but by 
life. The highest wisdom and truth is like 
the purest dew, which we try to hold within 
us. Can I hold in an impure vessel that pure 
dew and judge of its purity? Only by inner 
purification of myself can I bring that dew 
contained within me to some degree of 

Not only is God implied in our very thought, He is 
affirmed even in our denials, and without Him we are 
left with a God-shaped void in our hearts; as men 
who have had an arm or a leg amputated say they 
still feel an ache in the absent member. In his beguiling 
tale, Where the Blue Begins, Christopher Morley in- 
vested his dog Gissing with human passions and per- 
plexities, the better to show how man is harassed by 
the inscrutable issues of life and destiny. With a dog- 
nose, as sensitive as the spirit of a poet, Gissing sought 
tojsc&it-th& footsteps of God through the mire and 
maze of human affairs, in cathedral and counting- 
fyouse, on land and sea, driven by a hunger for "a 
horizon that would stay blue when he reached it." He 
^ eit t sometimes as though his heart had been broken 
from some great whole, to which it yearned to be 
tfeunited like a bone that had been buried which God 
would some day dig up. Always it is so, especially in 
our day, when a shallow skepticism has amputated 
God from so many souls. For, until we are led or lifted 
into a sense of union with the Whole of life, which 
gives unity and meaning to all its parts, the urge to 



completeness, so deeply rooted in the soul, can never 
be fulfilled. 

God is a Reality given us in experience; our idea of 
Him is an effort to make Him richly real and vivid 
in our lives. Of course, God is far above and beyond 
any idea of Him that ever dwelt in the soul of man, 
as the heaven is high above the earth. Therefore, we 
ought to think of God in the light of the highest truth 
our minds can know and the purest ideal our hearts can 
dream, the while we learn to find Him everywhere, in 
our own souls, and in all the shapes which life and 
love and duty take. Never has it been so difficult to 
think of God as it is today, not because He is less real 
or less necessary, but because, as has often happened 
before, the old symbols of faith have become inade- 
quate, if not impossible. Inevitably, our dogmas are 
only "words thrown out toward a great Object of con- 
sciousness"; not descriptions, but ascriptions. Still, be- 
cause we cannot know all about God does not imply 
that we are unable to know anything about Him. To 
the measure of our capacity we can know God by what 
He is in us and to us, and our knowledge increases as 
far and as fast as we are ready and willing to go. Only 
God is permanently interesting, and to know Him is to 
know what life is and what it means. 

No man was ever ^^edintoigili.injGo^; no man 
was ever argued out of it. The sources of belief, and 
unbelief, lie further back and deeper down, and no 
logic can take out of the soul what logic did not put 
into it. When a man loses faith in God, it is due not to 
argument no matter how he may rationalize his de- 



nial but to some inner disaster, betrayal or neglect, 
or else some acid distilled in the soul has dissolved 
the Pearl of Great Price. What we need, then, is not 
argument about God, which avails nothing, but ad- 
justment to Him in whom we live and with whom we 
have to do every day, everywhere. If it be asked hovv 
we can adjust ourselves to God until we know what 
He is, the answer is not far to seek we are doing it all 
the time. Nobody knows what electricity is. Some say 
it is a kind of fluid; others that it is an ether tension. 
But nobody really knows. Yet we adjust ourselves to 
it, making it run our errands and light our houses. 
Jesus, who based everything on experience, said that 
by single-hearted devotion to the best we know, we 
may learn the Truth most worth knowing; and to that 
high quest he calls us. 


Why do we believe in Jesus? Why did men ever 
think that a peasant Teacher walking our human way, 
browned by sun, wet by the rain, weary in the heat 
of the day, is God of very God? A story of old Japan, 
as told by Lafcadio Hearn, may give us a clue. When 
the people of a tiny village by the sea were out work- 
ing in their low-lying rice fields, an earthquake came. 
Happily, one man, whose farm was on the hill behind 
the village, was not working with his neighbors, and 
from his higher level he saw what the others did not 
see. He saw the sea draw swiftly back beyond its usual 
limits of retreat, and he knew at once that it meant 



the coming of a tidal wave. Not an instant was to be 
lost; the people must be gathered to the hills or perish. 

Hastily he set fire to his rice ricks all that he had 
and furiously rang the temple bell. His neighbors in 
the fields below heard the sound, and looked up and 
saw the smoke of the burning ricks. They rushed to 
the hills to help their neighbor, as they thought, in his 
dire plight. Then, looking seaward, they saw the wild 
waters rushing in over the place where they had been 
working, overwhelming their fields in ruin, and under- 
stood how they had been saved. The story tells how, 
after the disaster was over and the ruin repaired the 
man who had done this heroic, self-sacrificing act being 
still alive and their neighbor the folk of the village 
used to go to their temple and worship his spirit. It 
was as though in the saving act of a neighbor and 
friend there had been revealed to them a swift touch 
and vivid glimpse of "A Living God/' which is the title 
of the story. 

In the same manner, as men walked with Jesus in 
the days of His flesh, watched His works of mercy and 
heard his words of beauty, they became aware of the 
Living God revealed, as Turgenev said, in a "face that 
looked like the faces of all other men, just a common 
human face/' As they followed Him in those swift and 
gentle years, God became real, vivid, neat, ever ready 
to welcome the erring, to receive the sinful, to heal the 
afflicted; a Father whose love may be known in the 
simple joys of the lowly, no less than in the vision of 
the seer. Jesus did not argue about God who, because 
He is love, is known only by love but his friends saw 



in him something more Godlike than they had ever 
known. In fellowship with him a change was wrought 
in their inner life; new power came into their hearts, 
life was deeper and death less final. Up to the Cross 
they saw him go, facing all that fate and his foes could 
do, trusting the power of love alone; and it won* turn- 
ing defeat into victory. In spite of all obstacles, no 
power was able to stand against its irresistible might 
not even death itself! 

As his disciples looked back at the days spent in the 
company of Jesus, it was plain that a new element had 
entered into the life of man through his life. He was 
not simply another kind of man, but a new spiritual 
species, in whom the center of gravity had shifted from 
selfishness to otherness, not fitfully but in constant and 
creative urge. His words were the same, fresh as the 
dew and bright with color, less like images than ac- 
tions, as if life itself were speaking; and their meaning 
grew until they shone like stars. His death was the 
same dark mystery, but it detached itself from its place 
in time and became an unveiling of the law of love 
hidden behind the hardness of life. Yet he was so 
richly human, and so winsome withal, as if God had 
waited and worked for man to become pure enough 
to embody His spirit and life: "Man toward God, God 
toward Man," to put it so. To such a profound para- 
dox of faith and fact men were led by the love of God 
in the life of Jesus. How is he related to us, standing so 
close to us while towering so high above us, and how 
is he related to God whom he brings so near, and of 


whom he compels us to think with a new intimacy 
and insight? 

To answer these questions many dogmas have been 
devised, but they do not explain the mystery. Nor is 
it solved by denying all dogmas about Jesus; we may 
even be brought nearer to him, with demands which 
we can neither meet nor evade. We do not escape 
Jesus by casting aside the creeds, as so many do in 
our day. Still he confronts us, enthralls us, haunts us. 
In our far-off age we read his Life anew, seeking the 
sources of that stream of sweetness and light and 
lightning! which entered the world with his advent; 
but we are baffled. We ponder his words, as simple as 
the prayer of a child, yet profounder than any phi- 
losophy, and our hearts ache with awe. Why do we 
believe in Jesus? Because we cannot help it; because 
we cannot deny his purity, his pity, his holy kindness, 
his intrepid love, his relentless mercy, his incredible 
faith in us even when we have no faith of our own. 


Who do we believe in the Bible? The only treasure 
of a material kind which my mother left me when she 
went away was her Bible, old and well-nigh worn out 
by much use. If I had not known her life of faith, and 
had not seen her kneeling figure down the years, I 
would have known the history of her heart by turning 
the pages of the Book she loved, lived with, and sought 
to obey. Certain Psalms were like springs of bright 
water along her pilgrim way, where she found rest 



and refreshment. Passages from the Prophets stirred 
her like great music. The life of Jesus especially the 
fourteenth chapter of St. John gave her light in dark- 
ness, fellowship in loneliness, help for today and hope 
for tomorrow. She had a deep affinity with the Christ- 
mysticism of St. Paul, and understood the idiom of his 
experience. Yet she had no theory about the Bible, be- 
yond its beauty and blessing and the fact that it spoke 
the Word of God to her heart. 

What was true of one devout soul has been true of 
millions of men and women, all down the ages; and 
that is why we believe in the Bible. In this wise and 
faithful Book is the very stuff of life itself, the realities 
out of which, not as a theory, but as a fact, faith in 
God grows. The writers of the Bible did not argue; 
they obeyed. They lived before they wrote. They were 
men of like passions as ourselves, of like faiths and 
fears and failings. They wrestled with reality; they 
were sorely tried, and their cries of anguish echo to 
this day deathless trumpets from the oblivion of olden 
time. In weakness they were made strong; in darkness 
they saw "the brightness on the other side of life"; in 
death they were not dismayed. They needed forgive- 
ness for sin, solace in sorrow, courage in defeat, and 
guidance in a tangled, troubled world. What they 
needed they found in God the Eternal, and in God 
alone, and they set down in simple words gritty with 
reality, wet with tears what they learned of His will, 
His love, His plans for them and their duty to Him. 
In short, they showed us in actual life how the victory 
is won, how truth is known by living, and how the face 



of God shines in the purest vision of man, as the clouds 
contain the sunlight. 

What about today? One thing at least is true: God 
is not dumb that He should speak no more, and the 
Bible teaches us how to read His newer "Word in the 
facts, forces, events, and persons of our time. Is the 
Bible inspired? Manifestly, if only because it inspires 
us, lightens our darkness, rebukes our vanity, and heals 
the old hurts of life. For the same reason we may say 
that it is infallible, if we adopt the old Saxon word 
in-]ull-kem, in the sense in which our forefathers em- 
ployed it in early English, as meaning "that which will 
not fall down/' No argument is needed; the fact proves 
it. Ages of experience attest the strength and wisdom 
of the Bible as the Book of the Will of God in the 
life of man, outlasting all dogmas devised to defend it 


Why do men believe in prayer? To ask why men 
pray is like asking why birds sing; they are made so. 
Men are made for prayer, as sparks ascending seek the 
sun. As William James said, men pray "because they 
cannot help praying"; because they are seeking a Great 
Companion; and he adds, "men will continue to pray 
until the end of time, unless their inner natures change 
in a manner which nothing we know leads us to ex- 
pect/' It is because we and God have business with 
each other, and down in our hearts, when we are forced 
to face our own souls, each of us knows that in that 
business our highest destiny is fulfilled. The proof of 



prayer is prayer itself; all argument about it is absurd. 
As Meredith said, "Who rises from prayer a better 
man, his prayer is answered" and that is as far as we 
need to go. Here experience is the first and the final 

No matter how far back we go in the human story, 
we find an altar set up in the center of the life of man. 
Through all altering fashions of life and thought," in 
the midst of all desolations and disasters, there is one 
constant and abiding reality upon which men may rely. 
What is it? What is the root of religion which defies 
each age afresh to discover and assess its secret? Some 
call it mysticism, some use other names; it does not 
matter what we call it, since it baffles all words. But 
the fact remains today as in all the past: whenever men 
hunger and thirst after God and truly seek Him, there 
is a response of peace and power; and by that tokejji the 
soul lives. It is a primary experience, the bedrock of 
all religion, at once the basis of its faith and the foun- 
tain of its fellowship; and many waters cannot cjuench 
it. Mayhap the next great step in human advance will 
be a further dimension of this power of prayer, and 
the discovery that the problems of the world are solved 
by it. 

For what is prayer? It is not getting from God but 
getting to God through the mists and fogs of the mind; 
not asking God to do something for us, but to do some- 
thing in us and with us. It is not beseeching God to 
give us what we want, but to make us worthy aad 
willing to receive what is already our own, and to do 
what He wants us to do. If we try to use God for our 



own ends instead of being used by Him for His ends, 
our prayer fails we cannot exploit God. Nor must 
we ask anything for ourselves that we do not ask for 
our fellow souls; even in our private prayer, as in the 
little liturgy which Jesus gave us for the closet, it is our 
Father, and not my Father. Our final solitude must be 
a fellowship, since no man can find God for another 
and no one can find Him alone. God knows what we 
are and what we need as we do not know, and it is 
always ready for us when we are humble enough to 
take it and good enough to share it. 

Jesus did not argue about prayer; he prayed. If he 
needed it in living his good life needed nourishing 
nights of prayer to empower him for busy days of labor 
it is sheer vanity of us to neglect it, still more to say 
that we do not need it. For prayer is at once an art and 
an adventure, and those who learn its laws and dare 
its high reaches find sources of power unguessed by 
those who stay behind; to them the porter openeth. 
Aye, prayer is the art and adventure whereby we lay 
hold of that in God and in ourselves which enables us 
to do our duty and labor, and to endure and triumph 
over anything that life or death can do to us. 

Why do we believe in life further on? By what 
process did man ever imagine that the still, strange 
sleep which falls upon us all at last, covering our fad- 
ing faces with a soft, fascinating darkness, is not the 
end? Over the piled-up ages we hear a voice in the 



desert asking the question, "If a man die, shall he live 
again?" Surely there is no "if" about death; other 
things may happen, but death is inescapable. Yet from 
the far time when the Pyramid Texts were written man 
has defied death, disputed its verdict, and refused to 
admit that the grave is the gigantic coffin-lid of a dull 
and mindless world descending upon him. It is mag- 
nificent, but what is the basis of such an incredible 

As Martineau put it picturesquely, we do not believe 
in immortality because we have proved it, but we are 
forever trying to prove it because we cannot help be- 
lieving it. To refer once more to the Tolstoi story of 
War and Peace, when Pierre set forth the theory of 
Herder in respect to immortality, the Prince replied: 
"But it is not that, my dear boy, convinces me; but life 
and death are what have convinced me. Not by argu- 
ment, but when one goes hand-in-hand with some one, 
and all at once that some one slips away yonder into 
nowhere, and you are left facing an abyss. There is a 
Yonder and there is Someone God." That is to say, 
he believes because God is God, and man is man, and 
life is what it is. These three found focus and became 
incandescent in Jesus, in whom we see what God is, 
what man may be, and to what fine issues life ascends. 
Once we see what it is that gives dignity, worth and 
meaning to life, argument for immortality is not needed 
Until we do see it, argument is useless. 

In the Antarctic wastes, in order to save his friends 
the necessity of carrying his helpless, frost-bitten body, 
Captain Gates rose one night, while the others were 



sleeping, and walked out into the icy air and was seen 
no more. It was a calm self-immolation for the sake of 
others, with no hot emotion, no public audience, no 
ecstatic vision to urge him on. In a ghastly tragedy at 
sea, a young Salvation Army officer, in order to make 
room for a man to join his wife and little ones in an 
already overcrowded boat, slipped quietly overboard 
into a wild sea and disappeared. Or, turning to fiction, 
in Les Miserable*, in order to save an innocent man 
from being condemned in his place, Jean Valjean de- 
nounced himself for a crime of which he had not been 
accused; and Hugo adds, "all were dazzled in their 
hearts/' It is this divine quality in man, manifested 
alike in high and humble lot, which defeats death and 
attests the eternal quality of the soul, either on the 
Cross or in a wintry sea. 

As if by some sure instinct, man has felt the force 
of this quality in our race from the first, and the proph- 
ecy of it. To put it succinctly, if God is a God to whom 
such sacred values have worth, we cannot doubt immor- 
tality. If He is not such a God, nobody wants im- 
mortality; it would be a doom, not a destiny. To think 
otherwise is to make life a horror and a chaos, in which 
Jesus and Judas are alike erased in a blur of indistin- 
guishable dust. In obedience to a clear intuition of 
realities, as well as of values, man has been wise enough 
to trust the sanity and sanctity of life, repudiating blind 
fears which rob life of its meaning. For, if life is worth- 
less, so is immortality. 

My thesis, all through, has been to show that ex- 
perience is profounder than argument, as life is deeper 



than logic. Long ago Pascal said, "the heart has its 
reasons which the reason knows not of"; which means 
that what is truly religious is ultimately reasonable, but 
that reason alone does not discover it. By the same 
token, if we would live by the faith which makes life 
heroic and happy, we must keep our hearts with all 
diligence, lest they become too hard, too crowded, or 
too careless to bear the fruits of the spirit, as Jesus 
warned us in the Parable of the Soils. For, literally, 
out of the heart are the issues of life, whether we lose 
the treasure most worth keeping, or learn the truth 
that makes us free, which is known only to the pure of 
heart and the doers of the will of God. 

(The adolescent mind is appalling alike in its cocksmreness 
and in its confusion; but it may not be amiss to name some 
of the issues raised in the discussion following the sermon. 
First, the idea is widespread that the church, because it af- 
firms the Reality of God, professes to know all about Him. 
Whereas the church once issued an anathema against anyone 
who should declare that God is comprehensible. Obviously, 
God is incomprehensible, but indefinitely apprehensible and 
that is all we really need. Second, of course all the dark facts 
of life which seem to belie faith in God were brought up, for- 
getting that while those facts destroy the faith of many today 
perhaps because their faith is traditional and at second-hand 
those very facts created faith in God in the beginning. 
"Tribulation worketh faith," said the Apostle; and it was by 
facing the bitter, old and haggard worst that the masters of 
the spiritual life have always found the best whereof the 
Cross is the eternal symbol. Third, a number in the group 
declared themselves to be atheists, but when asked to describe 
the kind of God they denied, it turned out to be such a carica- 
ture as to provoke laughter. One realized anew why there is 
so much theophobia in our day, because no worthy idea of God 



has replaced the childish thought of a Big Man in the sky. 
Fourth, the mechanists described at length the intricacy of the 
world machine, only to discover that they were thereby making 
it the more impossible to think that it is mindless. Fifth, the 
humanists made themselves heard, affirming that God is only 
an idea in the mind as if the same were not true of the uni- 
verse, too, which we know only as it is reflected in our minds, 
since we cannot jump out of our skins; but that is no reason 
for "moving out of the house of God into a bleak orphan- 
age." It was odd to hear the melodramatic rhetoric of Bertrand 
Russell quoted like Holy Scripture, as if his glib and glittering 
dogmatism settled the issue. He is as dogmatic as Athanasius ; 
only his dogma is different. Sixth, it was plain that much of 
the revolt of modern youth is due to resentment against 
parental authority, in other connections, and is directed at 
parental religious ideas by way of retaliation. Seventh, it is 
extraordinary to see a generation throwing the Christian faith 
lightly aside, without any understanding of the history and 
meaning of that faith; yet so it is. Eighth, the most vivid 
impression of the evening was the assumption amounting 
almost to an obsession that science inhibits all spiritual faith; 
due not to men of science, but to immature minds using sec- 
ond-hand knowledge to belabor the Church. When asked 
which science inhibits faith, and how and why? there was 
no reply. Ninth, in contrast with the devastating "smartness" 
of a few, there were those who are convinced that Jesus saw 
straight and knew what he was talking about, and have sworn 
allegiance to his vision.) 

God Our Eternal 


The Eternal God is thy refuge, and 
underneath are the everlasting arms. 
Deut. 33*27- 

often had to seek shelter. They take the form of double 
repetition, so familiar in Hebrew poetry, as if to make 
doubly sure the Divine reality over against our human 
need. Indeed, if we turn tcfc the context we learn not 
only that God is beneath our necessity, but also that He 
is behind us to protect, before us to guide, and above 
us to bless. So encompassed, we make our way through 
the world like the people which were of old, albeit, 
like them, we so often forget "Him in whose great 
hand we stand," our truest Refuge, our surest Pro- 

SucE a text might have been written yesterday, so 
true it is to the facts of life and the deep need of the 
soul. Today, as of old, our life is in jeopardy every 
hour, haunted by a s&tse of insecurity, beset by perils 
of many kinds physical, moral, and spiritual. The 
weather of the world is rough, and even the bravest 
man must sometimes long for the shadow of a great 
rock in a weary land, a shelter in the time of storm. 



True, we dwell in a far-flung universe, in the midst of 
measureless forces, but also in the presence of pro- 
found necessities. Nor has all our wisdom taught us a 
deeper truth than that told us in this couplet of ancient 
song. It is because God is eternal that He is our refuge; 
and it is because His arms are everlasting in their 
strength, in their nearness, in their faithfulness, that 
there is comfort in their underneathness. Living in an 
age so troubled, so distraught, we need to know that 
those mighty arms are about us. 

Men seek out many places of refuge, none of which 
are to be despised, and some of which it is worth our 
while to name. Some years ago Maxim Gorki told us of 
his childhood in that strange land of Russia, and more 
recently he has been telling us of his advent In the 
World how he was kicked into it and told to make 
his own way. There is much in the book that is terrible, 
but not a little beauty, too, including a vivid portrait 
gallery of those whom he met in his wayfaring. It may 
be noted that this record of adolescent years, spent amid 
so much that was uncontrolled, vicious, and cruel, is a 
singularly pure chronicle. The j boy was thoroughly 
healthy, in mind as well as bodj^l All the men he knew 
had the same ^attitude toward women, and it filled him 
with disgusts So did the drinking, the thieving, the 
quarreling, the useless cruelty. He thought about these 
things, and he saw that people with whom he lived, in 
one place as in another, were cruel and vicious from 
sheer emptiness of life. The shadow that lies over his 
pages is the shadow, not of actual oppression, not of 
ill-nature not of poverty even but of dreariness, of 


meaninglessness. Life was so dull, so stupid, so color- 
less, so hideous that men sought escape from its monot- 
ony in malicious diversions. From such a lot, from such 
a fate the lad sought a refuge, and he found it in books, 
especially in books of poetry. Blessed be books, because 
they thus offered to a sensitive, aspiring soul a refuge 
from the foulness of the world. All through the years 
of his youth the vast importance of books is empha- 
sized, and we trace his slowly developing power as a 
maker of books. Then through later experiences among 
rough folk, vulgar folk, books were literally his sal- 
vation. From all the weariness and brutality of his en- 
vironment the lad had always a place of retreat, for 
which he was grateful. Of some of his readings he 
writes in words the trjith of which some of us .can 

"These books laved my soul, washing awayi 
the husks of barren and bitter reality. I felt 
that they were good books, and realized that 
they were indispensable to me. One result of 
reading them was that I gained a firm convic- 
tion that I was not alone in the world, and 
the fact that I should not be lost took firm 
root in my soul. . . . While not hindering 
me from seeing reality, such as it was, nor 
cooling my desire to understand living people, 
nevertheless this bookish chaos hid me by a 
transparent but impenetrable cloud from 
much of the infectious obscenity, the venom- 
ous poison of life. Books rendered many 
evils innocuous to me/' 



And speaking of books, if we open the Life and 
Poetry of James Thomson, by Meeker, we learn how 
another man, walking a shadowy way, found refuge. 
It is a pity that Thomson is known only for his one 
great pessimistic poem, 'The City of Dreadful Night," 
the terrible 'city London! made the more terrible by 
too much Scotch whiskey in the poet. He had more 
than one string to his harp. Happily, his biographer 
shows us his life through his poems, and this unveiling 
of his heart discloses a secret sanctuary. It was a ro- 
mance not unlike that of Dante and Beatrice, and it 
was the unifying influence of his character and his art. 
The "one woman" whom Thomson loved died when 
he was nineteen, and for the remaining thirty years 
of his life her image never left his heart. She became 
the embodiment of all the supreme loveliness of the 
world, and softened much of the sadness into which 
his way of living and his inherent tendency to despair 
would else have plunged him. Thus "into every poem 
that he wrote this memory of Matilda Weller's love is 
subtly but unfailingly woven. With her death, he, too, 
began a new life." When life pressed upon him, and 
when foes seemed too many to fight, he betook him- 
self to that sanctuary of love and memory for refuge. 

Different men find escape and shelter in different 
ways, but every man must have a place of refuge, 
George Eliot said "The human heart finds shelter no- 
where but in human kind"; with which agrees the 
strange statement of Darwin that religion is unneces- 
sary to those surrounded by domestic affection. Surely 
the exact opposite of this statement is true. Not one of 


us will undervalue the strength, the sweetness, the 
joy of what Whitman calls "the dear love of man for 
his comrade, the attraction of friend to friend." But 
there is in no human being an actual or potential self- 
sufficiency. Besides, no one need be reminded that death 
is never far away, and the very fleetingness of our hu- 
man fellowship adds to its insecurity. Heine was one 
of the keenest wits of his day, and a sharp critic of 
religion the quality of his thought being a smile, a 
tear, and a sneer all mixed up. Despite his skepticism 
and his genius, we find him confessing his helplessness 
at the bedside of his dying mother: 

"I thought over all the great and little in- 
ventions of man, but nothing would answer. 
Then I commended her to God, and com- 
posed a prayer that she might read it. She 
was my mother, and she had always loved 
me dearly, and she was going away from me, 
and this was all I could do for her. We are 
not great, and our happiness is when we can 
believe in something greater and better than 

Even so. God is our last refuge, but he is wise who 
learns the first truth first and does not wait until the end 
to learn it. Therefore, as the Master taught us, let us 
seek God first first in order of time, when life is new 
and habits are formed; first in order of importance, 
that the spell of the eternal may lie upon our fleeting 
days; and first in order of interest, that our life may 
have unity, purpose and peace. Here is a reality, not 



simply to die by, but to live by day by day, because 
it enables us to rest back upon the Eternal. When we 
are most worn, when we are least sufficient in ourselves, 
then we find His unceasing and unwithdrawn protec- 
tion all that we need. Thus we shall be able to meet the 
duties of life, bear its burdens, win its conflicts, and 
find its meaning. Such a truth helps one to live rever- 
ently, and with a profound sense of responsibility, but 
also with abiding confidence in One greater, wiser, and 
holier than himself. Like Luther of old, when he nailed 
his theses upon the cathedral door, we may sing: 

A mighty fortress is our God, 
A refuge never failing. 

Here lies the tragedy of the new Humanism, using 
the word in its modern anti-theistic sense, in which 
there in no God except as He exists in the mind of 
man a shadow of mortal desire cast upon the screen 
of faith and fancy. Religion, in turn, is regarded as 
an embellishment of the imagination, an artist drawing 
radiant horizons around our cottage door, a poet weav- 
ing a gold fringe upon an else drab and dingy pattern 
of life. It is a necessity, since the grind of the world 
and the bufferings of fate would be too much for us, 
without the touch of unseen hands and the gleam of 
celestial visions; a necessity, but not a reality. 1 How 

*For example in his new book entitled God which, alas, tells us 
more about its author than about its subject Middleton Murry writes: 
"God does not exist; but we shall never be able to do without Him 
unless we know in ourselves the reason why He was created. That 
knowledge is dynamic; for no one can know in himself the demands 
which God was created to satisfy without determining that for his part 
his life shall be devoted to the perpetuating of those values which 
God was created to secure." 



strange it is, reversing all the processes of insight and 
experience, the result at once of self-sufficiency and 
self-obsession, a surrender of thought and a bank- 
ruptcy of faith. Wherefore such a necessity, and whence 
the august idea of God, and how did it ever enter the 
mind of man? What a pitiful obfuscation, man trying 
to lift himself by his own shoe-laces, trying to warm a 
frigid universe with his own breath how unlike the 
triumphant march of the dynasty of mighty thinkers 
of the past, who found in God, the Eternal, the basis 

With which agrees the insight of Bojer in his glorious story, The 
Great Hunger, and again in The New Temple: "There is no God ex- 
cept as he exists in the mind of man, but neither is there any mis- 
fortune so great that you cannot conquer it by calling on the eternal 
forces within yourself. It is you, oh man, who gives existence a 
meaning and a goal ; you who hare created what there is of the great 
and beautiful upon earth; aye, you hare warmed the cold universe 
with your faith in an all-loving God. Lift up your heart) and show 
yourself conscious of your greatness." 

No doubt it is a mood, a passing phase of thought, due to the 
disillusionment and distraction of our generation; but it is an ex- 
traordinary debacle. It is an obvious truth that man makes God in 
his own image of necessity so, since he must think in terms of his 
own experience, and is justified in taking his own soul as a token of 
ultimate reality, as well as a stick, a stone, or an electron; but that 
there is no other God save our mental image no real God who is 
slowly making man in His image is an amazing inversion of thought; 
in short, sheer atheism. 

It is of a piece with another favorite dogma of our day, promul- 
gated by Hardy and taken up by lesser lights: that in man the uni- 
verse, by some freak or fluke, has cast up a being better and finer than 
itself, with needs it cannot satisfy and dreams it cannot fulfill, whose 
life is a splash of glory against a black background and whose death 
is a tragedy. As a dramatization of vanity and self-pity, the history 
of philosophy has nothing to equal it. For a description and dis- 
cussion of this odd aspect of contemporary faith, or untaith, see The- 
ism and the Modern Mood, by W. H. Horton, An Emerging Christian 
Faith, by Justin W. Nixon, The Christian God, by Richard Roberts, 
Humanism, edited by W. P. King, and by no means least, the chapter 
on "The Future of Religion," by W. E. Hocking, in Religion and 
Modern Life. 



of thought, the fulfillment of faith, and the final solace 
of mortal hope. 

Surely nothing is more impressive than the testimony 
of the history of philosophy that the quest of truth 
can end in final satisfaction nowhere short of God. 
Plato and Aristotle were perhaps the greatest, the 
most original, as they were among the purest minds in 
their love of truth, in the whole history of human 
thought. Forever memorable is their witness to the 
reality and glory of God as the sovereign necessity of 
the intellect. Their fine minds toiled always under the 
spell of an Eternal Mind, and their final conclusion 
was not an argument, but a vision of God. Indeed, the 
beatific vision of Dante of "the love that moves the 
sun and all the stars" was nothing but the insight of 
Aristotle wearing the robe of poetry. Timid minds may 
hesitate, and small minds may wrangle, but when we 
come to the end of thought and face the Infinite mys- 
tery, wise men take refuge in God like homing doves 
at eventide. 

Happily, we do not have to go back to the dim past 
to learn that God is the final home, as He is the first 
beginning, of the highest thought. Indeed, we need go 
no further than to the man who embodied so perfectly, 
both in the dignity of his character and the nobility of 
his intellect, the spirit and culture of Britain, and in 
whose words we heard the finer mind of his race 
Arthur James Balfour, so recently fallen asleep. Versa- 
tile, practical, spiritual, he had that common sense that 
never parts company with reverence, and saw the high- 
est reality as it is related to the life of everyday. Like 



William James, he revolted from the scientific agnos- 
ticism of years ago, repelled by its mock modesty. 
Agnosticism, by its profession, should have been most 
humble, but in practice it took enormous pride in its 
humility, and regarded positive belief with contempt. 
James and Balfour made themselves champions of be- 
lief, one finding in religion the reservoir of the finer 
energies of man, the other the long span of thought 
and hope, and the sense of relation to a perfect Being, 
which gives value to life. 

Few would deny that the original element in the 
work of Balfour as a religious thinker is the way in 
which he shows how the substance leaks away from 
the values of life when the eternal horizon is shut out. 
This is to say, we cannot have the value of religion 
without its truth. What we think about the origin of 
man and his destiny makes a vital difference in how 
we feel about him, and the pursuits of knowledge, 
beauty, and righteousness that seem to him important. 
Man has a faculty of knowledge, and that implies that 
the world to which he belongs is spiritual, having truth 
as its light. Also, the love of beauty which has so 
.large a place in the life of this thinker must have 
explanation, and he finds it to be a way of access to the 
Divine. Thus his ripe conclusion is that "all we think 
best in human culture, whether associated with beauty, 
goodness, or knowledge, requires God for its support/' 

In the same way, God is the support, as He is the 
high sanction, of the moral life of man. When we 
regard the still small voice of the moral sense in us 
as only an echo of old custom, its whisper becomes 



faint and less commanding, and the feeling of accounta- 
bility fades. Only when we find in God the sovereign 
keeper of those spiritual and moral ideals which He 
inspires men to seek and serve in their own lives is our 
moral life strong, true and noble. No one can see the 
end. Even the greatest man can see only a little way 
in this dark day. Whether revival or reaction will fol- 
low this age of confusion none can tell. Rapidly we are 
moving into a hidden, unknown, unpredictable future. 
What sustains us is our faith in the final tightness of 
things. Final tightness, mark you; not that whatever 
is is right, but that it can be, must be, shall be right. 
Never was there greater need than now for this as- 
surance, living as we are in a sorely troubled time when 
there is so much that is shamefully, hideously wrong. 
Hope and healing lie in that high thinking that grasps 
great issues and great outlooks, and in simple trust in 
a great God who has not lost control of His world. 

Nor must we miss the note of intimacy in the text, 
which tells us that "underneath are the everlasting 
arms." While we think in large terms of the struggle of 
the world, and the slow triumph of righteousness, each 
of us has all the time the need of a God who loves us 
as if there were but one of us to love. Truly it has 
been said that a God who does not care does not 
count. Still less can we find help in a God who is 
fumbling His way through the ages, trying to find His 
path in the dark. No; what our hearts demand is a 
guiding, protecting love which shall support us in our 
high moral tasks, and sweeten the unescapable sorrows 
which fall to our lot as a part of life. And such a God 



we have, nearer to us than our own souls, to whom 
we may turn in hours of doubt, depression, and defeat, 
and find refuge and renewal. How blessed it is to 
know that there is One who knows us better than we 
know ourselves, and who is equal to all our mortal 
needs and our immortal longings. 

There is no need to say that in death we must take 
refuge in God. No one else can help us when "the 
dumb hour brings the dreams about our couch." John 
Morley gave us a rare book of Recollections, the last 
line of which is a grave and gallant farewell: "So to my 
home, and in the falling daylight." What home? The 
great Void, black and bottomless, to which Ibsen 
seemed homesick to return at the' end? No. The an- 
swer is found in the old Road Book of the homeward 
way: "Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling place from 
one generation to another." At Vimy Ridge, just be^ 
fore the Canadian lads went over the top, they began 
singing the old hymns of the church and the home. 
One of their favorites was "Jesus, Lover of my soul," 
and the lines most often on their lips were those which 
gather up our human need and utter it in melodious 

Other refuge have I none, 

Hangs my helpless soul on Thee; 
Leave, ah! leave me not alone, 

Still support and comfort me: 
All my trust on Thee is stayed, 

All my help from Thee I bring; 
Cover my defenceless head 

With the shadow of Thy wing. 


When God 
Is Near 


Surely the Lord is in Ms place; and 
I knew it not. 

Gen. 28:16. 



if not a fact, that God is everywhere, and yet have no 
vivid sense of Him. They live in Him, depend upon 
Him, and serve Him better than they know, but they 
may not read aright the tokens of His life in their lives. 
The Bible is always busy directing attention to the un- 
recognized presence of God in the thoughts and im- 
pulses of men. 

My faith has always been that all men are in some 
degree religious; in fact, mystics, if one may name it 
so, though they may deny the fact and seek to hide it 
even from themselves. Even the saint has no faculties 
or facts that all men do not possess in some measure; 
only he uses and interprets them differently. Hours of 
ecstatic escaping of soul which he welcomes as lucid 
vision-moments, other men fear and distrust, as if they 
were dupes, not knowing their meaning or uses. 

Some time ago, thinking of these things, and pon- 
dering the ways of God with the soul, it occurred to 
me to make trial of a little plan, the better to test my 



faith. Selecting a group of close friends not pious 
men, as the phrase goes, but men of all types of mind 
and training, who have, in some degree, the spiritual 
quality I wrote each a letter, asking them to tell me, 
not why they believe in God, since no man can do such 
a thing, nor what they think He is, which is beyond 
the power of words to do; but when does God seem 
most real, and what is it that seems to bring Him 

Naturally men are profoundly shy about such things, 
and rightly so. None of us cares to listen to a man who 
blabs about God as if He were a man in the next room. 
Still, though one may sympathize keenly with such a 
feeling, it is no reason why, between man and man 
in the air of intimate friendship, we need to be mutes 
about the highest things. Something of the sort I wrote 
in my letter, vowing the while to keep all names hid- 
den; and the results were most gratifying, not to say 
surprising. Men who had boasted that they were ' "hard- 
boiled" talked like mystics, and others who professed 
to be prosaic turned poets. Here are a few testimonies; 
only the work or calling of each man is indicated, and 
that, alas, tells little about him. 

A LAWYER: It is in the pauses of my work, 
those little interludes when the rush of things 
is quiet, when I look out of my window and 
realize the silent, steady power of Nature; or 
in the evening when I have a moment to look 
up into a measureless sky full of stars; or 
when I see an act of pure, disinterested good- 


ness such as the little angels must run up 
and whisper into the ears of God to make 
Him happy; it is at such times that I have a 
real sense of God. 

A PHILOSOPHER: In my mind, besides com- 
plete thoughts, and other thoughts which 
though incomplete admit of completion, I 
find still other thoughts which it is impossible 
to complete; they open out fan- wise, and in 
their implications reach beyond time and 
sense. Yet they are very real, and in a sense 
normal and necessary to the healthful work- 
ing of the mind such thoughts I take to be 
the shadows of God in the mind of man. 

A BANKER: As you well know, I am ill at 
expression in religious matters, my faith being 
very simple. I think that if everyone would 
every day do some kind act for some one other 
than themselves, the burden of the world 
would be lifted; and I try not to wait for the 
others to begin. It seems to me that such a 
practice leads directly to spirituality; that is, 
to an experience of God, who is known not 
in words but in deeds. The Kingdom of 
Heaven is next door, but we go the other way. 

A JOURNALIST: For me the road to God is 
through beauty. There is too much beauty in 
the world for any ends of mere utility. It is 
this over-plus of beauty that is the best evi- 
dence of the existence of God, and the token 
of His presence. The song of a thrush in the 



evening, a forest vista in which the slant of 
trees and the shadings of light are such as to 
fill the artist with a wild, sad joy; or looking 
into the face of a flower its delicacy, its ex- 
quisite tracery make God actual to me. 

A BUSINESS MAN: I am bound to think that 
a real God is working now; so I believe that 
when I am working wisely and well I am in 
active cooperation with God. Occasionally I 
have a feeling of such cooperation; but more 
often I simply think of my work in that way. 
If you mean a mystical experience, I fear I 
must be counted among the "missing/' But I 
consider that one who is really controlled by 
the thought of active co-working with God 
has an actual experience of Him. 

A JUDGE: There are certain convictions and 
ideals which are the holiest things I know. 
It is plain to me that to turn away from them 
would be to close the door to all higher life 
and power. If I should betray them, or give 
them up, my way would be utterly dark. 
When I realize this I cannot help thinking 
that these holiest elements of my nature, 
which are the stars in my inner sky, are a 
revelation of God, bringing Him near to me. 

AN ENGINEER: To me the sense of right in 
my mind, the moral ideal in my soul, which I 
did not create and cannot destroy without 
destroying my very being the things that ar- 
rest me and make me pass moral judgment 



upon my thoughts and acts is the presence 
of God. If I obey it, a deep, quiet joy fills my 
heart; when I disobey it I am miserable. The 
mystery of the moral life, like the peace of 
God, is past my understanding; and for me 
at least the two are one. My religion may be 
stated in the words of Whittier: 

By all that He requires of me, 
I know what He Himself must be. 

A PROFESSOR: I believe in God, but I have 
no experience of Him so far as I am aware. 
I accept the creed of the church and try to live 
as if it were true; that is all. Yet, I know that 
something deeper than philosophy lingers in 
the light, in the song of a bird at dawn, in 
the loves and fellowships of life, something 
I can neither define nor grasp; and my hope 
is that some day, somewhere, that beautiful 
Something which hovers on the confines of 
my mind will at last become clear. In other 
words, as Stevenson said of Burns, I am not 
as much devoted to religion as haunted by it. 

A MAN OF SCIENCE: Every man of us has a 
shy and lonely thing in his heart which he 
dare not lose, on pain of no longer being a 
man. One does not often speak of it, and then 
only softly; but since you ask as a friend, I 
will say that it is in the Holy Communion 
that God is nearest and most real to me. 
Under the forms of bread and wine God 


touches me and feeds me. How it can be so 
I do not know; I only know it is so. Would 
that I were more worthy of such a blessing; 
but if I were I should not need it. 

There are others, but these are enough to show what 
I had in mind and what I discovered. Surely it is not 
argument that counts, but experience; not our thin 
theories about God, but our contact with Him. After 
all, who knows whether any of our theories are rea- 
sonable or not? These simple words from the hearts 
of strong men leave me haunted by the thought that 
God has all sorts of ways and means of making Him- 
self real to us. There are many paths in the Land 
of the Spirit, and they all lead to one end if we follow 
them to the end, and that end is God. 

While one does not wish to analyze the heart-beats 
of our fellow men, two things are taught by these 
testimonies. In nearly every case it is in some lovely 
little thing, some hush in the rush of life, some inter- 
lude of clear insight, that God is near, as of old He 
was not in the windstorm, nor in the earthquake, but 
in a voice of gentle stillness. Also, it is always as an 
intuition of union with Him, or of the unity of life in 
Him, giving unity and meaning to its parts, that the 
vision of God comes to help and heal the heart of man. 

Such a study suggests a thousand thoughts, one of 
which is that God must desire every man to have an 
experience of Himself, but in no two men is the ex- 
perience the same. A warm, impulsive nature, a cold 
critical temper, a practical active outlook, promise dif- 


ferent experiences of God, in both content and form. 
Glutton-Brock, with his vivid artistic sense of harmony, 
and Unamuno, with his tragic sense of discoid, must 
experience God in totally different ways. Each soul 
hath its song, or sweet or sad, and each must utter 
its note in the divine orchestration, and go its way 
to the God of whom it sings. 

By the same token, each soul must respect the vision 
and melody of others, whose music is no less authentic, 
even if it does not strike our key or cadence. The 
shepherds, at the first Christmas, did not see the pil- 
grim Star leading from east "to west, nor did the Magi 
hear the angels sing of peace on earth. Each followed 
the gleam or melody granted by the good grace of 
God, and each arrived at the new-born truth, albeit by 
different paths. 

If each is loyal to the vision granted him betimes, 
and loving with his fellow souls, in a finer fellowship 
yet to be achieved we may hear, if only for a brief 
time, an undertone of all-sustaining harmony running 
through our tangled time, prophesying a fair, far day 
when sorrow and sin shall cease, and the soul of man 
shall be free learning in love the truth it has lost in 

For my own part, if I may add my testimony, two 
things open the windows of heaven wider than any- 
thing else. When I read the Life of Jesus, in "the 'book 
of white samite, mystical and wonderful" especially 
the story of the walk to Emmaus and feel the unut- 
terable loveliness of his spirit of simple goodness, his 
heroic sincerity, his exquisite and healing pity, his im- 



passioned yet serene fidelity to his ideal, even to death 
and beyond then God is real and near, at once inti- 
mate and august. A radiant personality touches me; 
there is a human accent as of a friend the light shines, 
and there are footsteps by my side. 

Next to Jesus, who brings God to me, music is both 
priest and prophet to my soul, uttering those wistful 
yearnings which well up in every human heart, vaguely 
or clearly, but which no tongue can speak. When I 
listen to the Sanctus or the Agnus Dei by Gounod, or 
some of the great hymns, or certain strains from the 
masters, like the Largo, I know the Truth for which 
words were never made. Then I see a glimpse, if noth- 
ing more, of a meaning in the turbid ebb and flow of 
human misery about me, only the vague shape of a 
reason that floats in my heart, and melts as quickly 
away. . 

Aye, 'sometimes, by the mercy of God, when a great 
organ, with its keys of white and black like the joys 
and woes of life pours out its soul at the touch of 
a spiritual artist; sometimes life drops its veil, the 
tumult of time is hushed, those who have vanished 
seem near Eternity murmurs on all my horizons, and 
the noiseless knocking of a Presence is at my Gate. , 


The Crisis 
of Christ 

Preached in the City Temple, London, May 14, 
1930, at the Anniversary of the Colonial Mis 
sionary Society. The Preacher had the honor of 
delivering the Anniversary sermon bejore the same 
society on May 7, 1918 t while Minister of the City 


Will ye also go away? Lord, tq 
whom shall we go? 

John 6:67, 68. 


turned from the Wilderness of Temptation, his heart 
aglow, his mind made up, preaching the Gospel of God. 
Throngs hung upon his lips, drawn by the winsomeness 
of his personality, the lyric loveliness of his words, and 
the wonder of his works of mercy. He made men glad 
about God, glad about life, equally by his incredible 
approachableness and his understanding kindness, no 
less than by the warmth and wealth of his vision. In 
unclouded glory the love and power of God shone ia 
his face, and wrought in his healing hands. 

The vision of the Kingdom of God was so vivid 
in the mind of Jesus, and so radiant in his heart, that 
he had hope that the people of his fathers would see, 
hear and heed, and so avert the doom which he saw 
impending. But, alas, it was not to be so. When he be- 
gan his work in Judea, at first there was response, and 
then an icy hostility, an enmity made the more implac- 



able by the fear that the whole nation might be led off 
after him. As between the restless political radicalism 
of Galilee and the rigid religious bigotry of Judea, he 
did not fit into the scheme of his age. There was no 
room for his gospel of truth working by love, which re- 
vealed the futility of violence in reaching any high 
social end. His effort to win the synagogue from the 
Pharisees failed; his attempt to cleanse the Temple met 
defeat. Before the end of the first summer he knew 
that with the majority of his generation his ministry 
was doomed to be misunderstood, and he himself to "be 
despised and rejected of men. 

Such was the scene and setting of the Crisis of Christ. 
It was the old temptation again; and even while the 
people were trying to press upon his head the crown of 
rebellion against Rome, he knew that he must walk 
the high, hard way of the Cross, wearing a crown of 
thorns. Suddenly he turned and put the fickle, sensa- 
tion-loving crowds to the test those who wanted him 
to turn stones into bread and dazzle them with signs 
and if they had been fascinated by his charm, they were 
staggered by his challenge when he said: "Except ye eat 
my flesh and drink my blood, ye have no life in you/' 
Truly, it is one thing to come to the point of religion, 
and another thing to come religiously to every point. It 
was a hard saying; the multitudes melted away, fright- 
ened by his strange, stern demands, leaving the dis- 
ciples themselves bewildered and half-terrified. "Will 
ye also go away?" Jesus asked, ready to be deserted and 
left alone, as he was at the last. The little group re- 
newed their vows in a kind of awed desperation: ''Lord, 



to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal 

It was no mere mood of irritation or depression, 
but a quick and piercing insight into the human realities 
about him. While his faith in God was serene, he had 
no illusions about human nature, and he knew that 
mankind may any day suffer a swift and ghastly slip 
backward, losing its vision of the best. Jesus, appar- 
ently, did not believe in the idea of the inevitability of 
the progress of man onward and upward forever. He 
faced the possibility of an earth swept clean of every 
trace of faith and faithfulness: "When the Son of Man 
cometh, shall he find faith on earth?" If he told men 
that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, he did not 
mean that it will come automatically, by evolution or 
otherwise. Whether the final attitude of humanity will 
be Godward or not, he did not say. It can be and may 
be, though there is neither certainty nor inevitability; 
and Jesus did not deceive himself. He knew that there 
is doubt, but he believed that there is hope. 

The method of Jesus changed; he abandoned first 
the synagogue, then his open-air pulpit, and last of all 
the lakeside itself. In places of quiet retreat he began 
to tell his disciples of the exodus soon to be accom- 
plished, and to prepare them for it. Over the later para- 
bles a shadow falls; we hear of "a far country/' of a 
"great gulf fixed," of a hand at the window waving 
away guests who have come too late, of an outer dark- 
ness, of a son cast out of the vineyard and slain, of a 
sword that divides father and child, of a cup of for- 
sakenness drained. On the day of his triumphal er&ty 



into Jerusalem, Jesus sought to dramatize, in an acted 
parable, the genius of his enterprise; but to no' avail 
His disciples thought he had won, mistaking applause 
for approval, but he knew that he had lost. There was 
no fruit on the barren fig tree; "nothing but leaves." 
It was his last appeal to his people, and all that re- 
mained was the love that lives on when faith and hope 
are dead the Love which endureth all things, and 
therefore cannot be defeated. 


Once again, as in every generation since his advent, 
it is the Crisis of Christ in our age. Just before the 
World War, Harnack said in Germany: "If darkness 
shall ever come over the world, and God and every 
spiritual virtue grow dim, it may be that the personality 
of Jesus will save us/' Darkness did come over the 
world, as we well know darkness and confusion, and 
the face of God was hidden in a red mist and the 
personality of Jesus did save us from utter despair. 
Again it is an hour of decision and destiny for the 
church. It is not that we have failed to take Jesus liter- 
ally; the tragedy is that we have failed to take him seri- 
ously. For ages we have had a religion of what others 
said about Jesus, worshiping an image of him graven 
by our logic, making a Christ of our opinion and ador- 
ing it. The day has now dawned when we must draw 
nearer to Jesus himself, enter into his mind, obey his 
law of love, though it lead us to the Cross, and act 
upon his vision of the love of God and the Kingdom 



of Heaven, or religion, as he taught it, will disappear 
from among us. 

Again the multitudes melt away, disillusioned and 
distracted, leaving the followers of Jesus in dire dismay. 
Either we must live dangerously in the world today, 
making an unprecedented adventure toward Jesus, re- 
lying wholly on the guidance of his living Spirit, as, at 
the beginning, or the church will disintegrate. Our 
ancient contending theologies, and their counterpart 
in the disunion and woe of the peoples, are doomed; 
they do not signify. They are not refuted; they are simply 
passed by and forgotten as having no relation to the life 
of our age. No, there must be a new advance in faith 
and fellowship, a new dimension of insight and under- 
standing, a spiritual revolution which will save the 
world from its recurring disasters of war which break 
the heart of humanity and blaspheme the name of God, 
Else religion will be cast aside as an obsolete futility, 
as it is in Russia, and man will try to build his life 
upon another basis, with what results no one knows, 
One thing must be plain to all: religion as we now 
have it, impotent and uncreative a mere huddle of 
seas is not equal to the issues of this strange, stu- 
pendous age. 

What is the real issue before our age? Briefly and 
basically it is the issue between a materialistic, de- 
terministic, nationalistic outlook and the vision of 
spiritual reality, the ethics of moral freedom, and the 
hope of world fellowship. J>eeper down is the deepest 
issue of all, whether man is hereafter to think of his 
life in terms of cosmic meaning and concern* and that 



involves no less a matter than the life and death of 
society as we know it. The advent of atheism in our age, 
amounting almost to theophobia, is not an accident; 
and it shows that our thought of God has gone tragi- 
cally awry. It is a new temper, very different from the 
agnosticism of the last generation, many of whose 
teachers were exemplars of the devout. Mill, Huxley 
and Morley were agnostics, but they regretted it. 
Whereas the modern atheist, glibly skeptical and gaily 
cynical, proudly affirms that there is no God, and that 
he is glad of it. A militant atheism will be a blessing 
if it forces us to take our faith in God seriously and 
makes us re-dig the wells of living water down to a , 
permanent fountain. 

For, without a new vision of God as the unity of 
humanity in our age, without a deeper experience o^ 
God as the truth that makes all other truth true, what 
hope have we of building a stable peace and a creative 
good will among men, which is the supreme social task 
of today? How else can we reach and melt the sinister 
faith, the dark fear, which dictated the desperate say- 
ing of Chiras in the Laws of Plato, a faith held by 
many good and honest men in our day: that what men 
call peace is an empty name, since "there is ever be- 
tween all states a secret war." Manifestly it is faith, 
and yet again faith, on which our hope rests; faith in 
a God above man and within man, faith that man 
exists to surpass himself, faith in the vitality of moral 
forces and the efficacy of ideas. If our faith fades, if 
God becomes only the shadow of man cast upon the 
screen of his fear or fancy, our hope is doomed to de- 



feat. Here again the personality of Jesus, and his vision 
of God, saves us, keeping alive the faith that there is, 
at the heart of things, a sure ground of hope and a 
source of power. 

To try our faith to the utmost, at the very time when 
we are praying and planning for peace, a horde of 
divisive facts and forces are acutely active. In the small 
world in which we are now living, its vast distances 
abolished by the magic of science, the races, of men are 
drawn together, jammed together, and rancor runs rife. 
In the British Commonwealth this problem is widely 
distributed, yet not the less urgent, but in America it; is 
at our door and may not be evaded. There is less color 
feeling, less racial hatred, in Russia than in America. 
The late Lord Morley thought the race problem in 
America "insoluble"; and so it is, without a religion of 
brotherhood. Rabindranath Tagore put the matter 
pointedly when he asked: "Do you really think that 
so long as America has such racial prejudice it has any w 
Christianity to export?" If our religion fails here as, 
alas, our Protestantism seems well-nigh to have failed 
in America it fails fundamentally and fatally, no mat- 
ter how unctuous and eloquent its profession of faith 
may be. Can our religion once more bring the races of 
men together in the glow of fellowship, as it did in its 
morning years? 

As the Russian repudiation of religion in behalf of 
materialism may help to renew our faith, so the uproot- 
ing of humanity in economic and social affairs may 
force us to put our own house in order. It is not simply 
a polemic but a portent, and if it looks at first like the 



idealism of hell, to ignore it is folly. It does turn the 
searchlight on features of our own economic system 
which are ghastly in their injustice, and brutal in their 
exploitation of man by man. It shows, as in a horrible 
apocalypse, that our selfish, individualistic commercial- 
ism, so ready to use men to make money for private 
gain and luxurious display, instead of using money to 
make men, is nothing but organized atheism. It is not 
only un-Christian, it is inhuman. Surely we now know 
that no society has any secure future but that in which 
the people, all together, learn to cooperate as part of a 
common life for the common good. Our hope lies in a 
practical fraternal righteousness, in which the skill of 
science is employed to serve the masses of mankind. In 
short, our religion must first teach us to do justly, then 
to love mercy, if it is to lead men to walk humbly with 

By the same token, the moral chaos of modern life 
warns us that we are at the end of an era, and no 
prophet can predict what awaits us. One thinks of the 
lines of Matthew Arnold: 

"Ye live/' I cry, "ye work and plan, 
And know not ye are severed!" 

Severed we are, sundered from a new generation to 
whom our experience is alien, our sentiment mere senti- 
mentality, our ideas antiquated and our ideals unreal. 
A wild, sad confusion reigns, an apotheosis of self- 
assertion and self-sufficiency, a saturnalia of sex obses- 
sion in life and literature, a revolt against chastity, 
authority and restraint. Even our music is troubled, as 


we hear it in the poetry of Eliot, Gibson, Sitwell and 
Sassoon, to name no other singers. Can our religion 
sanctify and sublimate the basic instincts of humanity? 
Can it harmonize and harness them to the service of 
the Kingdom of God, making its redemption a revela- 
tion of a finer morality in which inspiration transfigures 
inhibition? Can it reknit the marriage tie, broken today 
like a rope of sand, and save the home, now threatened 
with destruction? 


If these issues have been stated vividly, not to say 
starkly, it is in order to put a question to your heart 
and to my own; What have the questions which divide 
our churches to do with issues such as these? Nothing! 
Less than nothing! They do not touch the real life 
of our age; they do not "speak to its condition," as 
George Fox would say. What wonder that the multi- 
tudes melt away, or remain indifferent, when the churdt 
is so remote from the problems in which they strug- 
gle, and leaves them to grope without guidance. . Whai 
salvation can the church offer this tangled, turbulent 
age, speeding its way in a welter of flux and confusion? 
A private piety, a code of personal ethics, a vision of 
the Kingdom of Heaven as something to be looked at 
afar, rather than to be looked for? Can a divided church 
hope to unite the world? If the church cannot realize 
the brotherhood of religion in its own fellowship, how 
can it creatively influence the social order? Can Chris- 
tianity, as a theological and ecclesiastical affair, eve* 



meet the need of this restless, ruthless, cynical modern 
world, as the Gospel of Christ grasped the crumbling 
classic world and reshaped it? 

To ask such questions is to answer them to our con- 
founding. In the Garden of Sorrow, on the night in 
which he was betrayed, Jesus prayed for his disciples, 
"That they all may be one, . . . that the world may 
know that thou hast sent me." Here are tremendous 
words, in which Jesus makes the proof of his person and 
the power of his Gospel to depend upon the unity and 
fraternity of his followers. Surely he is dead of soul, 
or else deaf to the voice of Jesus, who can hear that 
prayer and not be shaken by its pathos and challenge. 
Read in the light of Christian history, it well-nigh 
smites us mute; read in view of the facts of today, it 
makes the heart stand still. That prayer is literally 
true. The world will never believe in Christ until those 
who love him love one another well enough to live 
and toil together in the spirit of his life and the service 
of those for whom he died. If the church cannot realize 
the law of love in its own life, it will be impotent, 
if not insignificant, in the days that lie ahead, and the 
faith of Jesus will fulfill itself in other ways, or else 
be cast aside by a hurrying, realistic world as a vision 
too fair ever to have been true in the past and too 
frail ever to come true in the future. 

Is it not the Crisis of Christ in our day? Or, rather, 
is it not the crisis of his church as it falters, hesitates 
and delays to prove to the world the truth of the faith 
and fealty which it professes? Is there no power in the 



Gospel of Christ to cut through the cobwebs of custom 
and immemorial misunderstanding and let the light 
shine out of darkness into our hearts, ''to give us the 
light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the 
face of Jesus Christ"? For half a thousand years, on 
this Blessed Island, the Body of Christ has been torn 
by a profound schism, the story of which we know, 
and the tragedy of which has been carried to, the far 
ends of the earth, even^ in its missionary labors! Let 
me humbly bear, my witness in the pulpit of the City 
Temple, speaking both as a Free Churchman and as an 
Anglican, knowing both sides from the inside, and treas- 
uring the precious thing which each seeks to conserve. 
Before God and this company of my brethren, I testify 
that in my own heart they are not divided, but are as the 
two hemispheres of one Christian world, and what God 
hath joined together we must not forever keep asunder! 
Let us treasure both traditions, and reckon them equally 
holy, equally vital, equally precious; but let us keep 
in our hearts the words of the Lord Jesus how he said: 
"Ye do make the will of God of no effect by your 

Long ago Wesley learned, in his mellow sunset years* 
that the Love of God is deeper than all dogmas, and 
that the many words of religion describe one ineffable 
blessing. Today, if we are to do the work of God in our 
generation, we must take the whole world for our 
parish, the whole Christ for our redemption, and the 
whole church for our fellowship. All exclusiveness must 
be excluded, as it was in the mind of Jesus who never 



emphasized a little issue in his life. No partial insight, 
no limited vision, will meet the need of an age which 
passes all frontiers and probes all abysses. If we be- 
lieve if we really believe that God is actually present 
in the fellowship of men who are seeking His King- 
dom on earth, then the church can be united by the 
highest and holiest bond by the Spirit of God Him- 
self. If we believe this passionately and profoundly, our 
inertia, our pride, our historic differences about which 
we make so much ado, aye, even the institutional snob- 
bishness and selfishness will give way to the holy will 
of God. Here, again, the personality of Jesus will save 
us, when we are willing to follow where His footprints 
point. Again He will lift us out of our littleness into 
His largeness, giving us a vision of the Gospel which 
was the purpose of His mind, the passion of His heart, 
and the prophecy of His life, 


What of the future? The extraordinary thing about 
Christianity is that no prophet can foretell what it will 
do next. It is a religion of surprise, its verity attested 
equally by its vitality and its variety. Again and again, 
when it seemed dead or defeated and its faith a fiction, 
it has recovered some neglected insight or opened a 
new window of vision, and ushered in a new era. Al- 
ways the Crisis of Christ is the purification, emancipa- 
tion and consecration of his church. It will be so in our 
generation. There are tokens to tell us that we are on 


the eve of the next heroic creative age of Christianity, 
in which its audacity of adventure and its heart of fire 
shall be revealed anew. No one can tell what form it 
will take. Nor is the form important; it is the living 
spirit that gives the light and power and victory. Old 
dogmas and obsolete forms will fall away, like dead 
leaves from the Tree of Life. The only Christianity 
worth preserving is the Religion of Love, inexhaustible 
in its ministries and magnanimities. 

In an age of cruelty and confusion the Poor Little 
Man of Assisi heard the words of Jesus, "provide 
neither gold nor silver nor brass for your purses, nor 
script for your journey/' Wedded to Lady Poverty, he 
went singing through his age, saving the church from 
disruption and the world from utter corruption. In an 
age of superstition Luther heard the words, "the just 
shall live by faith," and restored the lost sense of the 
immediacy of God and the rights of the soul of man. 
In an age of utilitarian complacency, a few heroic 
men, attempting great things for God and expecting 
great things from God, in obedience to the words, "Go 
ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every 
creature," launched the great enterprise of foreign mis- 
sions. What is the word of God for our age? He that 
hath ears to hear let him hear! "And this commandment 
have we from Him, that he who loveth God Jove his 
brother also." 

After the passion of two thousand years, on the eve 
of the nineteen-hundredth Day of Pentecost, let us 
seek the source of light and power, using the old and 



simple technique: "And they continued steadfastly in 
the apostles 7 teaching and fellowship and in breaking 
of bread, and in prayers." What if the church should 
dare such an adventure and assemble, as of old, not to 
legislate but to listen, invoking the power available to 
faith and prayer and unity, the better to learn the will 
of God and how to do His work? What if its leaders 
should foregather, not to argue, not to patch up a plat- 
form, but to seek to know the mind of Christ? What 
if we should go to such an assembly, not as those who 
seek for victory of opinion, but actually to yield our- 
selves to the Holy Spirit to be taught by Him what He 
would have us do? What might not be revealed to us 
concerning the will of God for our bewildered age, 
when humanity is astray in its own life, groping its 
way in the darkness? The early church sought the 
guidance of God in this manner, and it was permitted 
it to say what we should be able to say sincerely: "It 
seemed good to the spirit of God and to us." 

The words of Carlyle still flash like lightning in the 
sky: "The world asks of its church in these times, more 
passionately than of any other institution, the question 
Canst thou teach us or not?" If the old hurt and 
heartache of the world are to be healed, if there is 
to be love where now there is hate; if bitter racial ran- 
cors are to be cleansed away, if the shadow of war is 
to be lifted from the life of man, setting us free to 
create a world fellowship; if the race is to be led 
toward a juster, wiser, more merciful social order, and 
the light of the Gospel sent into all the dark corners 
of the earth; it will be by the union of those who have 


found in Jesus the Way, the Truth, and the Life by a 
Pentecost of Love and a Baptism of Brotherhood. Noth- 
ing can save the church and make it equal to the tragic 
necessities of our age, except the power of Him who 
created it nothing but the red passion of the love of 
God and the white fire of His Spirit in our hearts. 

The Return 
to the Altar 

Delivered .in the First Presbyterian Church, 
Philadelphia, a a Conference on Worship, under 
the auspices of the Federation of Churches. 


If we inquire of anthropology, we find that from 
earliest time man has had two basic industries, tool- 
making and ritual-making, and they give us a clue 
to his history. The reason why man makes and uses 
tools is plain enough; he wishes to extend his power 
and his personality, in order to meet his need and 
master his world. But why, from the beginning, in all 
ages and lands, man has made rituals, is not so plain; 
it is a mystery. Manifestly, at the bottom of ritual-mak- 
ing there is an impulse as fundamental, a necessity as 
natural, as the making of tools; something profoundly 
revealing. Ritual is religion in act. As if by instinct man 
felt that something must be done about God; some- 
thing to invoke nay more, to enact His presence in 
our fleeting life. 

Let us not forget that ritual is first in order; and 
theology follows. One may not be dogmatic, but it 
would seem that in his sacred rites sacrifices, sacra- 
ments, ceremonies of a thousand sorts, wherein magic 
and mysticism were blended man endeavored to com- 
plete the sequence of experience. In his rituals he spun 
and wove a tie to unite cause and effect, trying tt> 
find the connection in things. As Bruno said, God is 
the principle of connection in things, the Meaning to 
which all facts contribute; and man was seeking God. 
Ritual, then, is a quest after the unity of facts., the re- 
lation of events, the coherence of experience, as over 
against a mere haphazard, existence or the awful mis- 
cellaneousness of sheer chance. It is man interpreting 



life, flinging across its gaps a network of meaning, act- 
ing out what he believes it to be, endeavoring to bring 
himself into harmony with the order of the world, and 
thus to be at home in it. 

If we turn to psychology, we learn that ritual has 
a dual explanation, causal and functional. The rites 
of religion, in their origin, we are told, were not so 
much attempts to placate the gods though that ele- 
ment was present as expressions of communal life, 
celebrations of its great events, such as birth, marriage, 
and death; an effort to secure its sanctities by social 
safeguards. That is to say, man sought by ritual to 
establish communion with the Divine Power not fully 
attained, or broken by some sin of his own and he 
sought that communion socially, through his group life, 
repeating in his ritual the order of nature. So inter- 
preted, his ritual is organized mysticism, and as such 
appeals to the basic instincts of human nature the de- 
sire for self-expression, the creative desire, and the social 
desire to do things in common with his fellows seek- 
ing to harmonize and harness his elemental powers in 
the service of the highest life. In short, it dramatizes 
the faith, hope and spiritual dream of man, giving a 
reality-feeling to what otherwise easily becomes ab- 
stract and unreal. 

To trace in detail the varied forms of ritual and cult 
is beyond my purpose here, as it is beyond my power. 
But three things strike one in the study of the cere- 
monies and symbols of humanity, and the first is that 
worship, in all its forms, is one thing, one in aim and 
ideal, however manifold its expressions may be. Also, 



worship is everywhere an effort of man to make him- 
self receptive to such revelation as may be vouchsafed, 
in order that God, felt to be far off, may be brought 
near, and that God, feared to be unfriendly, may be 
found to be friendly. Put otherwise, in worship man 
seeks to make the universal particular, to overcome the 
distance between himself and God, yielding himself the 
while to be invaded, exalted, and commanded by One 
higher and holier than himself. When, in his early 
rites, he approached the dark mystery of God, wrapped 
in cloud and shadow, his worship was abject and awful, 
involving mutilation and blood. But when he broke 
through the taboo of terror in safety, there followed an 
outburst of wild gaiety to which we are well-nigh 
strangers; an ecstasy in which earth and sky were felt 
to flow together in joy. From afar we can still feel the 
thrill of that ancient ecstasy, its ghastly offerings and 
its glorious liberations. 

In other words, worship, as "the practice of the pres- 
ence of God/' so to define it, alternates between nega- 
tion and realization, between escape and return an 
escape of the soul out of the prosaic humdrum of day- 
by-dayness into a larger, freer life, whence it returns 
illumined and empowered. At the altar, which is a focus 
alike of faith and fellowship, man is lifted above the 
self of every day, with its duties, drudgeries and de- 
lusions, into a Self at once more real, more clairvoyant, 
and more abiding. It is the great emancipation, and as 
such the supreme adventure of man, the ultimate reach 
of his soul, and the finest of all arts. It cannot be 
brushed aside as a mere "defense-mechanism," as it is 



in the jargon of our day it thrusts us out on too many 
daring quests. It cannot be labeled as "self-hypnosis," 
as the fashion now is, because it liberates too many 
forces. It is not simply consolation, it is exploration; 
and its adepts, whom we call mystics, prophets and 
saints, who run ahead of us up the mountain until 
they are almost hidden, live the eternal life in these 
our mortal years. 

On its higher level, as we see it in the masters of the 
spiritual life, worship transcends art, transcends philos- 
ophy, and deals directly with the Reality of which all 
else is symbol and shadow. It discovers another dimen- 
sion of existence, as Jeremiah, in the midst of trial and 
tragedy unspeakable, rose above ritual-religion, as on a 
ladder, above book-religion, into the Religion of the 
Spirit, with its light and power and liberty, and became 
"the Christ of the night, the Shadow Christ." If at 
first it seems to be a withdrawal from the issues and in- 
terests of everyday, the withdrawal is only seeming, in 
order to bring a brighter vision to the darkest task; as 
Raphael, in his painting of the Transfiguration, shows 
us on one canvas the shining figure of Jesus on the 
mouQj&io^ and the distracted father and his demon- 
felmnted bo^at the base. 


'What is worship? A glance at the Lerolle painting of 

'The Arrival of the Shepherds" on the morning of the 

Nativity, may give us a hint. The scene is drawn with 

realistic verity, devoid of halos, but with a penetrating 



insight into the deepest intimacies and attitudes of the 
soul. The herdsmen stand huddled against the rough 
tree trunks which support the roof of the cavelike stable, 
and over all is the hush of a mingled awe and joy. 
One shepherd has dropped upon his knees in adora- 
tion, lost in wonder, his feeling of unworthiness speak- 
ing from his whole body. The second lifts himself on 
tiptoe, gazing timidly over the shoulder of the kneeling 
figure in front of him, watching with wistful, inquiring 
eyes, seeking the answer' to the riddle of life in the 
lighted face of Mary, and the Child at her breast. The 
third shepherd, the oldest and most thoughtful of the 
three, has lifted his hand, as if swearing allegiance to a 
vision he has vowed to serve and obey. 

These are the three elements which enter into wor- 
ship as the ultimate art, Adoration, Inquiry, and Al- 
legiance; and we may think of them in order. When 
the late Baron von Hiigel, one of the noblest spiritual 
teachers of our generation, was asked to define the es- 
sence of religion, he replied in one word Adoration. 
The deepest need of man, he said, deeper than duty, 
honor, or happiness, deeper than petition, contrition, 
or even thanksgiving, is the mood of adoring prayer, 
in which the soul is lost in the Otherness of God, find- 
ing rest, release and renewal in One who is like yet 
profoundly unlike itself. Other forms of prayer do not, 
indeed, disappear from our lives; they are caught up, 
fused, and united in a detached, disinterested giving 
of our being to a Being other than ourselves to be 
cleansed, taught, mastered, possessed. Such prayer 
yields all, asking nothing; it seeks God for Himself 



alone, as both the source of prayer and its answer, and 
the end of all desire. St. Francis used to spend whole 
nights in an intense stillness, uttering no words but 
"God! God! God!" loving God, rejoicing in God, sur- 
rendering all to God. 

As Eckhart said long ago, when we seek God for 
our own good and profit, we are not seeking God. 
It is religion as an end in itself, like art for the sake 
of art, which must be our aim and ideal if we would 
be free; religion God-centered and ineffable. To attain 
it man may well invoke the aid of every art, striking on 
all the outward senses of the soul that from dull in- 
sensibility it may be awakened to know God and live 
in Him. The vista of architecture, the spell of music, 
the fragrance of fellowship help us to achieve "the wise 
passiveness" of which Wordsworth tells us, wherein 
worship is listening. They induce pause and poise of 
spirit, what another has called "a time exposure to 
God," relaxing the tenseness of thought and lifting 
us into a wide and quiet place of vision, above utilities 
and futilities, above the clatter and confusion of life. 
In such vision-moments the soul, acting as a unity, rises 
above itself, and becomes spirit; it sees, knows, and 
sings. Deeper impulses emerge of which we have hardly 
been aware, new openings appear, old memories mingle 
with new meanings, as our whole being goes out to 
God in awe and joy. One such hour of insight and 
self-escape > lyrical and luminous, shows us more of 
what life is and what it may be than all the sages 

At so high a level of adoration we see life in truer 



perspective and proportion, as from a mountain height, 
and read its flying days in a clearer context, no longer 
clouded by our lower, shadow self which obscures the 
truth. Its problems of faith and duty are plainer as we 
think of it from the inside, religiously, with deeper 
insight and a wider outlook. The gentle, troubled singer 
of the Seventy-third Psalm, vexed by the arrogant pros- 
perity of evildoers, felt his faith wavering and his feet 
about to slip, until he went into the sanctuary. There, 
at the altar, a longer view was unveiled, and he saw 
the swift end of wicked men and the futility of their 
devices. There we, too, must test our lives by One who 
is the Arbiter of every perplexity and the Author of 
every pure ideal, lest we sink imperceptibly into the 
shame of the second-best; we who so easily forgive our 
own faults and flatter our own vanity. The Bible calls 
it confession of sin: "Search me, O God, and know 
my heart; try me and see if there be any evil way in 
me/' It is a kind of Divine psychoanalysis, so to name 
it, yielding the harp to its Maker to be tested and 
tuned, which is far better than letting human fingers 
fumble among its delicate strings. Such an inner in- 
quiry, if it be honest and fearless, tries us by a standard 
other than our own, revealing our besetting sins and 
our self-defeating traits in a white and healing light. 
By the same token, as Tennyson said in a shining 
line, we needs must love and follow the highest when 
we see it, drawn equally by its beauty and its mercy. 
Nay more, by the holiest compulsion of our being, by 
the sway over us of spiritual ideals, we renew our 
vows on our knees, as a Roman officer, in the sacra* 



mentum, repeated his oath of obedience every year. 
Thus at the altar of worship, in the sacrament of faith 
and fealty, we celebrate in a holy rite the vision shown 
us in the light of a purified spirit, swearing allegiance 
to its pure service; whence we return to the hard task 
of the day, or its bitter tragedy, with a clearer insight 
and a stouter loyalty. Alas, because we are frail and 
faltering, fitful in our faith and fortitude, we must re- 
turn again and again to the place of hearing and heal- 
ing to renew our vows. Nor are we safe until, by a high 
habit of heart, we have ordered and established our 
lives in strength and quietness; and that is why the art 
and practice of worship, as an act of emancipation and 
consecration, is so vital to the best life of society and 
the soul. It is not a luxury but a deep necessity, if life 
is to have inward unity, direction, and grace. 


To describe in this manner the nature of worship is 
to reveal the appalling need of a return to the altar in 
our tangled, crowded, hurrying, unworshipful age, 
wistful and cynical by turns, when men have well-nigh 
despaired of finding any clue to the unity of life or 
any key to its meaning. If there is to be a recovery of 
religion, if we are to recapture its lost radiance, if it 
is to renew its creative and expansive vitality in our 
generation, it must be by the way of worship, its su- 
preme art of adventure, exploration and interpretation. 
Yet the conditions of life today, its hectic pace, its 
hideous noise, its obsessive externality, its lack of rich 



inwardness, its clutter of things and its confusion of 
voices, are a conspiracy against the ancient command, 
"Be still, and know that I am God." Such is our di- 
lemma, as if we had all gone astray in our race for the 
means of living and lost the meaning of life. 

Life today is an endless round of alternating strain 
and diversion; our labor is largely with the external, 
and there we seek, also, our recreations. It is an age 
of the crowd, of mass-movement and mass-thinking, in 
which the individual seems insignificant. Few know how 
to be alone, much less to live by their inner resources. 
The wealth and variety of the things we can do con- 
trasts pitifully with the poverty of what we are. Day 
by day we live under a terrific pressure of stress, one 
duty handing us on to the next, as a pail of water is 
passed down a long line of men fighting a fire. As 
some one has said, it is not we who do our duty, but 
duty that drives us to get itself done. Harnessed to the 
way and will of the world, harassed by its hot haste, 
we live by compulsions from without and not by initia- 
tives from within, and when free of the grind we know 
not how to pass our time. In no age has the soul been 
so enslaved, so caught and caged in a net, lost in the 
mass yet unable to be alone. It is no wonder that 
spiritual reality seems unreal, and men grope blindly, 
fumbling after some thread of all-sustaining truth, some 
way of unity in the midst of a maze. 

But unity, alas, eludes us, living as we are in an age 
of specialization, when life is cut into pieces and patches 
for inspection, its students working in isolation in dif- 
ferent fields. The cultural whole of other rimes has 



been shattered, and lies in the disarray of a temple yet 
to be built and built upon. Who understands Einstein, 
or Epstein, or even Gertrude Stein? Who knows how 
Whitehead gets his destination, or what the expression- 
ist drama expresses? There is no one mind today, but 
many minds, as divergent as they are inarticulate. Our 
specialists do not understand each other, yet specialists 
they must be, each with his own technique and dialect, 
since no one can follow the whole field of vision. Never 
again will any man be a "master of those who know/* 
as Aristotle was in his day, and Aquinas later. Such a 
synthesis of thought is impossible today; the volume 
of knowledge is too vast, too varied. Our only hope of 
a way out is by a spiritual synthesis, as in the mind 
of Lincoln "the Union rose to the sublimity of a re- 
ligious mysticism," to use the phrase of Stephens; as 
in the ample vision of Whitman, the greatest mystic 
the new world has known, our prodigal and abundant 
America found transfiguration and interpretation. Un- 
less we can attain to such a vision of unity in the uni- 
verse as religion seeks to realize, the meaning of life 
is lost in a medley, as it is for so many in our day. 

For religion, to say it once more, is an experience of 
union with the whole of life, which gives unity and 
meaning to all its parts. Here, no doubt, is the secret 
of the trend toward a richer, more colorful, more en- 
thralling worship, as we see it in the emphasis on 
Gothic architecture, in more stately liturgies, and in the 
flood of books on the spirit and art of worship which 
pours from the press. In so far as this movement means 
a release from die tensions and weariness of a machine 



age, seeking power with which to meet victoriously its 
issues and demands, it is prophetic of blessing. But if 
it be merely a "pattern of , escape behavior/' an effort 
to evade facing in a realistic way the problems which 
confront us, avoiding moral perplexities and social reali- 
ties by taking refuge in a dreamy emotionalism or a 
fine-spun mysticism, it means not only defeat but disas- 
ter. The priest is needed as we return to the altar, but 
also the prophet with his merciless moral criticism and 
his flaming speech, and the tie between them must be 
kept taut. Otherwise, as history warns us, there will be 
a lack of balance and a tragic loss of power and vision. 


If we are to walk the way of worship we must use all 
our wisdom and all our wit, avoiding many pitfalls, 
seeking God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our 
mind, seeking holiness with our whole being. Worship 
is, first of all, an attitude such as every soul must, in 
its highest and truest moods, always assume in the 
presence of this amazing universe; an attitude of wise 
wonder in front of such a mystery, of exalted humility 
before One in whose great hand we stand. It is the 
harmonious activity of our highest faculties, and for 
that reason the highest happiness man can know. Never 
does earth rise so high, or heaven bend so low, as when 
we worship, and nothing so transfigures life, purifying 
it of fogs and fears, lifting it above the flats to which 
our daily toil tends to drag us down, opening new 
vistas of insight and outlook. 



But worship is more than an attitude; it is an atmos- 
phere in which the heart is made pure and the mind 
clear. Air is one thing, and everywhere the same, but 
an atmosphere is charged with a quality of its own, 
benign or blighting. There are thoughts which we do 
not think in the holy atmosphere of the altar, imagina- 
tions which take flight at the mention of the name of 
Jesus. Finally, worship is more than an atmosphere; it 
is an act, solemn, specific, sacrificial, not merely a con- 
ception but a perception of God, not simply a yearning 
but a yielding of the whole being, in deliberate and 
utter self-surrender, to One higher, wiser and holier 
than ourselves. In his later Catholic years Newman 
wrote a letter in which he tried to tell some of his old 
friends the meaning of the Mass, from which we may 
learn much, though it may make our more reflective 
worship seem uneventful and idle 

"The Mass is not a mere form of words, it 
is a great action. Words are necessary, but as 
means, not as ends; they are not mere ad- 
dresses to the throne of grace, they are instru- 
ments of what is far higher, of consecration, 
of sacrifice. They hurry on as if impatient to 
fulfill their mission. Quickly they go: for the 
whole is quick; they are all parts of one in- 
tegral action. Quickly they go, for they are 
awful words of sacrifice; they are a work too 
great to delay upon, as when it was said in 
the beginning, "What thou doest, do quickly." 
Quickly they pass, for the Lord Jesus goes 


with them, as he passed along the lake in the 
days of his flesh, quickly calling first one then 

"Each in his own place, with his own heart, 
his own wants, with his own thoughts, with 
his own intentions, with his own prayers, 
separate but not concordant, watching what 
is going on, uniting in its consummation. 
There are little children there, and old men, 
simple laborers and students in seminaries, 
priests making their thanksgiving, and there 
are penitent sinners, but out of these many 
minds rises one Eucharistic hymn and the 
great Action is the measure and scope of it." 

Thus, in a high and holy act, whether swiftly or 
slowly, blending the mysticism of fellowship with the 
awful individualism of each soul, together we seek 
the One whom we need the better to serve and bless 
the Many who need us. To sum up, worship is to 
life what distance is to art, what the measureless is to 
music. Here, under the hospitable roof of God, life 
reveals its true proportions and dignity, and we recover 
its vast backgrounds. Here, with the mystery of Eternity 
moving to and fro in our hearts, we see the real values 
of life, and our oblique judgments are corrected by 
reference to Divine ideals. Here our hearts melt in 
song, and those ineffable truths which on other days 
seem dreamy and dim renew their reality, and we dare 
to read the meaning of life by what is highest. 

For the rest let us never forget what has been so 



often and so sadly forgotten that the most sacred 
shrine on earth is the soul of man; that the temple 
and its offices are not ends in themselves, no matter 
how old and stately, but blessed means to the end that 
every human soul may become "jubilant and behold- 
ing/' as Emerson would say, cleansed of evil and 
crowned with the glory of a God-illumined vision; 
that every human heart may be an altar of faith and 
hope, a sanctuary of purity and pity, a cathedral of 
serenity and gladness. 


Religion in 
Public Affairs 

Delivered at the opening of the Institute of 
Public Affairs, University of Virginia. 


Render therefore unto Caesar the 
things which are Caesar's; and unto 
God the things which are God's. 

Matt. 22:21. 


cal issue of his own time, it is fitting that we study it. 
Doubly so because of the wise insight involved, and 
as a kind of prelude to the agenda of this Institute of 
Public Affairs in which sundry issues of vast import 
are to be discussed. The mind of our time is cloudy 
as to the relation of religion to public affairs, and if 
it can be clarified in the light of the mind of Jesus, 
we may find the guidance we so much need. 

Of course our Lord was aware of the motive of the 
inquiry, and the effort to entangle him in the mesh 
of partisan feud and perhaps entrap him to his hurt. 
No matter; as on other occasions he gave wise answers 
to foolish questions, so here he gave an honest answer 
to a question manifestly insincere in its asking. He met 
the issue squarely and confounded his critics, but he 
did more. He took advantage of the opportunity not 
only to adjudicate on an issue acute in his own age, 



but also to set forth a truth for all ages. If his critics 
were adroit, he was profoundly wise. 

Even the manner of his reply is worth study, as 
showing his clear eye for facts. He recalls his critics 
sharply to the realities of the case by asking for a penny 
and inquiring to know whose image it bore. His mean- 
ing is obvious. It is idle to discuss the right of paying 
taxes to Gesar when they were enjoying the protection 
of Cassar, since the right of coinage implies the author- 
ity to levy taxes; a principle acknowledged to be valid 
by the later Rabbis. That is to say, the question in 
respect to Gesar was to be answered not by a fantastic 
theory, but by the acceptance of facts and the exercise 
of good sense. 

But Jesus did not leave the matter there, else he had 
done little more than expose the hypocritical malice of 
his foes, while he evaded the gravity of the issue. Be- 
sides, he would have been siding with the Herodians, 
who were content to accept a subject princedom as 
a sufficient realization of the national hopes, and enjoy 
die privileges and powers which such a policy brought. 
He pointed out that the claims of God were equally 
imperious and not to be denied. In other words, he 
gave a spiritual answer to a practical question, and in 
the end no other kind of answer is valid or wise, since 
at bottom every great issue of life is spiritual No doubt 
his foes took his words about God as a mere pious 
gesture, as so many are wont to do in our day, though 
we are beginning to see, dimly it may be, but more 
clearly than formerly, that the spiritual factor cannot 
be ignored. 


Before we take up the principle of Jesus regarding 
religion and public affairs, let us not forget the wisdom 
of his general abstinence from such matters. It takes 
little thought to see that the relevance and value of 
the Gospel for us is due to the fact that Jesus dealt 
with the perpetual needs of men, and not with their 
transitory and local perplexities. When he did depart 
from his usual reticence it was to deal with issues 
neither local nor secular merely, but recurrent, per- 
petual, and universal, and he gave most illuminating 
decisions. Had he done otherwise, he would have be- 
come hopelessly entangled in the feuds of parties and 
sects in his own day and land, and would have little 
light for our guidance in this far-off age and land. If 
he touched upon local issues, as he did in a few in- 
stances, it was because he saw in them questions which, 
in one form or another, needs must recur to vex and 
baffle men of every age. 

As a fact, there are no more than five such ques- 
tions dealt with in the recorded teaching of Jesus, and 
it is worth while to name and state them. First, "the 
Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sab- 
bath/' in which he lifts a vexed issue out of the region 
of the arbitrary, rigid and non-natural into the free and 
vital necessities of human well-being. Second, ""not what 
goes into a man, but the things which proceed out of 
the man defile/' in which we are shown for all time 
that in relative importance it is first the moral, then the 
ceremonial. Third, "what therefore God hath joined 
together, let no man put asunder," in which he sums 
up once for all what is implicit in marriage, making the 



spiritual tie the secret alike of its sanctity and its se- 
curity. Fourth, his answer to an apostle who sought to 
justify his intolerance toward a Christian worker who 
was not of the company following Jesus, but who cast 
out devils in his name: "Forbid him not, for he that is 
not against us is for us"; which disregards ecclesiastical 
irregularity in the interest of spiritual loyalty and hu- 
man service. Fifth, the passage now before us, which 
sets forth the .nature and validity of the claim of the 
state to the obedience and support of its citizens. 

How, then, shall we interpret and apply this last 
saying of Jesus which defines both the duty and the 
limitation of citizenship? As a command, for such it 
surely is, requiring all who would obey him to render to 
Caesar his due and to God His right. It does not mean, 
as it may at first appear, that Caesar and God are rival 
rulers, because Caesar is a servant of God, whether he 
knows it or not. Nor does it mean, as some seem to 
think, that the world is cut in two, divided between a 
practical worldliness and a thin otherworldliness. Jesus 
did say that his kingdom is not of this world, but he 
sought none the less to establish it on earth, as he 
taught us to pray in the little liturgy which he gave 
us for our daily use; and not only to pray but to work. 
If we join this saying of Jesus with the words of St. 
Paul, when he said that "the powers that be are or- 
dained of God," perhaps its meaning will be clearer. 
By the "powers that be 5 ' St. Paul meant the Roman 
Empire of which he was a citizen and under whose 
protection he lived and labored the empire estab- 
lished by the military genius of Julius Caesar and the 


statesmanship of Augustus. It was ordained of God, 
said St. Paul. 

Surely he was right, since it was almost the first at- 
tempt to unify and organize the world upon a basis 
of law, its far-flung power making the world one, 
just as its great stone roads brought the ends of the 
earth together. Back of this saying of St. Paul lies a 
profound philosophy of history, which sees that the will 
of God is worked out in the life of man only as fast, 
and in so far, as man works with the Eternal Will, 
Put concretely, the Roman Empire was the form which 
the will of God took in that age, because man was not 
ready or willing to receive a finer form God must 
wait for the developing capacity and wisdom of man. 
In other words, each age, each nation has as good a 
government as it deserves, or is ready and able to re- 
ceive, whether it be an oligarchy, a monarchy, or a re- 
public. By the same token, all men, certainly aE 
Christian men, must strive by every art at their com- 
mand as individuals and in their collective life to 
make the state more perfect, more responsive to the 
will of God; and by so much is the Kingdom of Heaven 
set up on earth and among men. 

If we ask how this philosophy or faith, if we call it 
such worked out in the events and development of 
history, the records of the ages tell us. It took three 
forms, the first of which was when the Roman Empire 
tried to destroy the religion of Jesus. By a sure inr 
stinct the Roman rulers felt, from the first, that the 
Gospel of Christ was an enemy to their power. The 
refusal of the disciples of Jesus to put their Master on 



a par with other gods la the Pantheon, and still more 
their refusal to bow down to the Emperor as a deity, 
confirmed the suspicions of the Roman authorities. Yet 
the effort to obliterate the religion of Jesus, frightful 
in its severity, failed utterly. Clearly a new influence, a 
new force a strange power called weakness had been 
released among men, which even Rome could not 

At last the religion of Jesus, so far from being de- 
stroyed, captured the Roman Empire, and became the 
state religion by law established. If it seemed a gain, 
it was, alas, also a terrible loss, because it meant com- 
promise, the dimming of a vision, the coarsening of 
what was fine, and a surrender of its real supremacy. 
Still, it must have been ordained of God, because, as 
Rome reeled and staggered to its fall, the church 
dropped into the saddle of the Caesars, held the world 
together, and saved civilization from utter collapse. 
Anyway, the union of church and state continued, with 
varying vicissitudes of good and ill often so mixed 
as to be impossible of disengagement all down the 
ages until the founding of our Republic, an event 
the full meaning of which we do not yet know. In the 
New World a new beginning was made, dividing his- 
tory into before and after, as regards the relation of 
church and state and the public ministry of religion. 

At the University of Virginia, his pride and the idol 
of his "later, wiser years," as he called it, there is no 
need to tell the story of the heroic fight led by Jeffer- 
son in behalf of a free church in a free state. It was 
memorable and magnificent, and its results are no less 



benign because they are taken for granted, like so much 
else won for us in the past at so dear a cost. Still, we 
ought to remember that in the buffer states of New 
York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, to call them such, 
there was less need for such a struggle, due to the wise 
Dutch and to the gentle folk of the Society of Friends, 
who founded their early communities upon a basis of 
absolute freedom and toleration. Indeed, it is not too 
much to say that no single group in our history has been 
more fruitful of good than the Society of Friends; and 
its influence has been out of all proportion to its size 
touching with intellectual and spiritual fineness so much 
of the life, literature and legislation of our land. 

Nor is it necessary, even if it were possible, to at- 
tempt to trace the creative and restraining power of 
religion in the public life of our nation. Such an under- 
taking is beyond human competence, since we cannot 
measure such forces, but we know that it has been 
vital and formative; and that, too, in spite of the ever- 
present temptation and tendency of a false otherworld- 
liness to abdicate the right and "duty of moral criticism, 
when it has not actually tried to provide religious sanc- 
tions for social selfishness. In the past as in our own 
day, though happily in less degree in later years re- 
ligion has been lamentably content to serve as an am- 
bulance cart, following in the wake of industrial and 
military strife, when it ought as well to have been 
thundering, like the old prophets or like St. James, at 
the strongholds of tyranny and injustice which were so 

In these despites, the power of religion in public 



affairs in our land has been mighty, and it is not to be 
wondered at. Surely he reads history to little account 
who does not know that the two great forming agencies 
in the story of man have been the Religious and the 
Economic; and it always will be so. Here and mere the. 
ardor of the military or the artistic spirit has been for 
a while predominant, but religious and economic in- 
fluences have nowhere been displaced from the front 
rank even for a brief time; and they have nearly always 
been more important than all others put together. Be- 
cause this is so, truly the crux of all our social problems 
is to get these two factors the Religious and the 
Economic into right relations. Here, as elsewhere, the 
Bible, if we are wise enough to listen to it, will be our 
best prophet and guide, because its religion was re- 
vealed in the midst of a great struggle for social jmce, 
and if rightly studied and used it will be a lamp to our 
feet in a troubled time. 

If now we look more closely at the f acts and forces 
of our own age and land, what is the truth revealed? 
One thing, at least, is true; the separation of church 
and state does not and must not mean the separation 
of religion and public life. Rather it should manifestly 
mean that the church is set free from the shackles of the 
state the better to serve its own high, prophetic pur- 
pose. Yet there is need of dear thinking and careful 
handling in such matters, if we are not to do injury 
while we are trying to do good. Just now it is said, 
not for the first time, that we must not "mix religion 
and politics," and there is truth in the saying, though 
much depends on who says it, why they say it, and in 



what tone of voice. If it means that religion is merely 
private piety and has nothing to do with the social 
and public life of man, it is false. 

For some of us the words have a familiar echo, tak- 
ing us back to the days when we were fighting the 
saloon, when we were told to preach the gospel of the 
Kingdom of Heaven and not mix in politics as if 
the Kingdom of Heaven had nothing to do with a moral 
and social pesthouse! No, what was meant in those 
days was that religion should betake itself to another 
world and let the saloon run our politics, as in fact it 
did, with what results we know. Indeed, it ran our 
politics with so high a hand that it finally hung itself 
as high as Haman, and its effort at resurrection today 
will be abortive. If only we did mix religion with 
politics the religion of purity, justice, honor, and 
brotherly kindness our public life would be nobler, 
finer, andlnore fruitful for the common good. 

None the less, as has been said, there is a sharp 
truth in the saying that we ought not to mix religion 
and politics, in so far as it means that the church should 
be a place of worship and not a weapon of warfare. To 
win a temporary gain at the cost of a permanent injury 
is bad bargain. Efforts are always afoot sincere and 
high-minded, but misguided seeking either to use the 
state to enforce the moral precepts of the church, or else 
to use the church to coerce the state. Already we have 
gone further in both directions than it is wise or safe 
to go, putting in jeopardy the rights of the minority as 
well as the rightful influence and work of the church. 
Ardent minds, impatient of moral suasion, if they have 



not actually lost faith in it, may easily do more harm 
than good. A great prophet-bishop God in His mercy 
does sometimes allow a prophet to become a bishop, in 
spite of the church has recently said: 

"Measurement and publicity are the best 
weapons for social redemption precise judg- 
ments according to a standard and the publica- 
tion of the results. The church has exalted 
standards which it can use with increasing 
precision, and it has organs of publicity. Any- 
thing beyond this lobbying, propaganda, 
political maneuvers may well be subjected to 
scrutiny, especially when we are tempted to 
enter into cooperation with some evil forces 
against other evil forces. It is in my judgment 
imperatively necessary for the church to fight 
now as never before against the liquor traffic, 
but I am becoming increasingly uncomfortable 
about some of the alliances die church is at 
least half-way forming in this warfare, such 
as those with political parties and reactionary 
commercial and industrial organizations. If 
we get the devil to pull the cart, it will go at 
his pace, over his road, and in his direction. 
At the very least, such policy of co-working 
begets in the church too kindly a sentiment 
toward allies of doubtful moral standards. I 
know a farmer who shot a watch-dog that had 
become 'too friendly.' " * 
1 Bishop Francis J. McConnell of the Methodist Church. 



This, plainly and picturesquely said, means that the 
erxd does not consecrate or justify the means, but that 
right ends may be delayed, if not defeated, by wrong 
methods. In other words, if we are ever to build the 
Kingdom of Heaven on earth, it must be by heavenly 
means and methods. If we try to do it by earthly meth- 
ods by repression rather than creation, by organiza- 
tion rather than inspiration, to say nothing of statutory 
substitutes for character we fail utterly and in the na- 
ture of things. Even the force of righteousness cannot 
make men righteous until they are ready and willing 
to yield to it, else the power of God would have made 
men righteous long ago. God works from within out- 
ward, and only in His way can we build His Kingdom 
on earth. At first it seems a slow way, requiring a long 
time and so it does just as it takes a long time to 
grow a tree; but in all high matters the slow way is 
the quickest way, because it is the only way. 

A famous and far-reaching instance will bring this 
truth to a glow-point. Gandhi is a spiritual splendor 
in our generation, a voice to echo in the ears of men, 
a vision to haunt thek hearts, long after the principali- 
ties and powers that oppose him are but dust blown bjf 
the random winds. Yet, when Gandhi set up a boycott 
against the British Empire using a force none the less 
powerful for that it was passive he did what Jesus 
refused to do. Jesus, too, was a member of a subject 
and tormented race, but he fought only with the 
weapons of the spirit. Folly? No, because he released 
an influence which, in the end, saved the good Caesar 



had done. Futile? Apparently, but not so in fact and 
the outworking of events. Today both wisdom and 
truth are ranged on the side of "him who is the eternal 
symbol, sacred even to those who question his very 
historicity, of the lonely might of the spirit opposing 
itself to the federated forces of the world." 

How does this strange might of the spirit, as elusive 
as it is ineluctable, work and after what manner? Let 
us see. Macaulay tells us that the evangelical revival 
improved the quality of doth woven in the mills of 
England; but it is not of record that it improved the 
conditions under which the weavers worked. But, hap- 
pily, in the mid years of the last century, the spirit of 
God moved upon the hearts of a group of the elect, 
Maurice, Kingsley, Ruskin, and others. When Maurice 
said, "I confess the sins of my age as my own," there 
was born a sense of social solidarity so vivid that the 
physical misery of the many became the spiritual torture 
of the few; and there was no rest until wrongs were 
righted. Our hope lies in an increasing spiritual sensi- 
tiveness, an ever more vivid social imagination. To- 
gether they will make war intolerable, and the Golden 
Rule a necessity in the life of man. 

No one can read the words of Jesus, much less fol- 
low in his footsteps even a little way, and not discover 
that he lived in a world of which Caesar knew nothing. 
All the strange powers of the soul were assembled in 
him, held in harmony by a sanity of mind and a purity 
of heart, transfiguring the dark mystery of life with 
meaning and mercy. The unseen, unknown empire of 
the spkit, over which the legions of Caesar had no 



authority, was his dominion. He heard the voices of 
the world; he read the heart of man; he reached and 
ruled that inner realm where abide the issues of life and 
destiny. His dazzling conception of the Kingdom of 
Heaven has no equal in its depth and grasp and gran- 
deur. It has in it the breadth of the sky, the curve of 
the earth, and all the journeying years. The dream of 
Caesar was vast, but the vision of Christ is vaster. All 
the wandering races of men are embraced in his humane 
and heavenly vision of a redeemed Humanity; and he 
saw in a far time his vision fulfilled. 

Caesar ruled from without; Christ reigns within. At 
the center of humanity he sits enthroned, holding for- 
ever his scepter of love and pity and joy. Men follow 
for love of him, led and lifted, they know not how, out 
of hate into love, out of doubt into faith. And thus the 
ages have followed him with song and art* 

The glory that was Greece, 
And the grandeur that was Rome, 

have vanished, have melted into the stream of time, but 
the power of Christ grows and abides, and will have no 
end. Caesar died and Rome decayed. The state can re- 
strain, it cannot regenerate. Something deeper is needed, 
something that softens and purifies the heart of man, 
and builds a temple in the secret place of the soul. 

Caesar needs Christ to fulfill his dream of an ordered 
world; and Christ needs Caesar too his large world- 
mind, his high heroic quality, his fine practical capacity 
if the Kingdom of Heaven is to be set up on earth, 



Our spiritual-mindedness must become public-minded- 
ness; the skill of science and the power of religion must 
work together; and faith must be translated into truth. 
These things shall be, because 'the Power of Love is 
greater than the love of power, and in the long last 
Love cannot fail, for God is Love. 


Our Neighbor 

Commencement Sermon, State University of 


Luke 10:25-37. 

wisdom of the world there is no story that touches life 
more vitally or with a more sparkling vividness. It be- 
gins with a debate about a point of theology, but it is 
soon giving first aid to a wounded man by the road- 
side. If it has to do with the question of Eternal Life, 
it ends by paying room and board at a hotel. So practical 
is religion in the mind of Jesus; so near are eternal 
realities to the affairs of everyday. 

The story was told* in reply to a man who thought 
it much easier to love God than to love man. He was 
willing to be neighborly, but he wanted to select his 
neighbors. He thought that some line ought to be 
drawn, some limit set beyond which one is not required 
or expected to go. There are many who want religion 
to be a kind of limited liability company, lest they be 
too deeply involved. But Jesus drew no lines and set 
no limits to the duty of man to help man. He wanted 
the lawyer to know that his neighbor was the man next 
to him who needed his aid, wherever he might be, re- 
gardless of race or religion. 
There is no need to say that the story was told by 



an incomparable artist; it is a picture painted by die 
twist of a wrist. Dipped and dyed in the colors of hu- 
man life, no essential fact is omitted, no unnecessary 
item added. Even the lawyer agreed that his question 
was answered neatly and completely, with no possibil- 
ity of evasion. The scene is located on a lonely road 
where only God saw what went on. No audience was 
present to modify any motive. Each man acted out the 
actual spirit and principle of his life, uninfluenced by 
anything outside his own heart. 


The road from Jerusalem to Jericho is steep and 
dangerous; it descends three thousand feet in twenty 
miles, from the shoulder of Mount Olivet to the Jordan 
valley. In imagination one can see those bandits hiding 
in a limestone cave, their dark faces silhouetted against 
the cliff, waiting for their victim symbols of the black 
fringe of crime on the borders of society. When the 
hapless traveler came in sight, they leaped out, sur- 
rounded him, beat him into insensibility, took his 
money, stripped him of his clothing, and left his bleed- 
ing body at the side of the road. They intended to kill 
him, because dead men tell no tales. Cruelty is one of 
the most distressing and depressing facts in life. It was 
a bloody, brutal business. 

But that is "rough stuff," to use the touch-the-spot 
language of our day. One does not have to break a 
man's head to be a bandit. One can break his heart. 
One can break his home. One can break his business. 


One can subtly and cynically break down his religious 
faith. One can besmirch his good name, and destroy an 
honorable reputation built up through long years. 
Every day men are robbed of things far more precious 
than gold. The amount of polite banditry and refined 
cruelty that goes on in the world is appalling. Many a 
man respectable in society and in the church is nothing 
but a bandit, and would be so described if we called 
things by their right names. Alas, too often success 
softens criticism and muffles speech. To put it plainly, 
any man who deals with his fellow man for what he 
can get out of him and nothing else, is a bandit. 

One of the greatest of German thinkers laid it down 
as a principle, in tune with all the teaching of Jesus, 
that to treat a human being as merely a means to an 
end, no matter how high and holy the end is supposed 
to be, is immoral. It does not matter that such a prin- 
ciple throws a white and searching light upon much 
that we are pleased to call civilization, it is none the 
less valid. To think of working folk as so many "hands" 
and nothing else, forgetting that they are immortal 
souls, precious to God and for whom God died, is im- 
moral. To think, even if we do not speak, of young men 
as "cannon fodder," is a ghastly and cynical sacrilege. 
Of course we are shocked when some blunt man blurts 
out the brutal truth, stripped of the glamour of senti- 
ment and fine phrases. As one of the characters in Saint 
Joan said, it would horrify us if we could see what we 
think about as it really is. 

The two men of religion in the parable have been 
the targets of scathing scorn, and rightly so. But let us 



be careful, lest we impale ourselves before we know it. 
One was a Priest, who hardly glanced at the wounded 
man by the road, and passed on, hurrying to the Tem- 
ple to take up his office. In his mind a misplaced collect 
in the temple service would have been a serious matter, 
but he could leave a fellow man in dire plight without 
a qualm. The hypocrite, we are ready to say. But we 
have no right to use such a word. Jesus might use it, 
because he knew the human heart as we do not. No, 
the priest was not a hypocrite, not conscientiously so at 
any rate. He honestly did not see any connection be- 
tween religion and the service of humanity. To him 
religion was the rhythm of a ritual. He thought that 
God lived in the Temple, listening to prayers and 
hymns. It did not lie in his mind to think of God as 
brooding over a broken man by the roadside. 

Not long ago a friend of mine was preaching at 
Harvard, and he closed his sermon by quoting a stanza 
of the stately hymn, "In the Cross of Christ I Glory/' 
After the service President Lowell asked him if by any 
chance he remembered who wrote the hymn from which 
he had quoted. He did, lucky man. He said it was writ- 
ten by Sir John Bowring. The president pressed the 
matter by asking if he recalled when, where, and "under 
what circumstances the hymn was written. He did not 
remember, if indeed he ever knew. The president told 
htm that it was written at the very time when Sir John 
Bowring was forcing opium down the throats of the 
people of China at the mouth of the British cannon. It 
seemed incredible to my friend, but in the afternoon he 
and the president looked it up and found that it was so. 



A hypocrite? No, it was a blind spot. Sir John Bow- 
ring saw no inconsistency in writing a noble and tender 
hymn in praise of the Cross of Christ with one hand, 
while with the other he was engaged in an infamous 
undertaking. He saw no connection between his pri- 
vate spiritual-mindedness and his public life. He was 
not pretending to be religious in order to make polit- 
ical capital out of one of the most frightful iniquities 
that ever cursed mankind. Such an explanation is too 
simple, too easy. His piety was fragrant and sincere, 
but he honestly did not see that it had anything to do 
with his public acts. To Sir John Bowring, as to many 
another man, religion was an inner ecstasy or peace, 
an escape from harsh reality, a merciful cleansing from 
acts required by his position from which his better na- 
ture may have revolted. There are many such. It is a 
strange astigmatism, but before we condemn it let us 
be sure that we are not afflicted with it. For my own 
part, I have too many blind spots to pass judgment 
upon others. Only in recent time have we begun to see 
that religion and life are one and the same, or neither 
is of any worth. For, manifestly, if piety does not issue 
in human service, in juster laws and a more merciful 
society, its dogmas are a delusion and its ritual a rig- 

Take the example of the Earl of Rochester, of whom 
Macaulay tells us. In order to influence James II for 
political purposes, the Earl employed a dissolute woman 
to whose charms the king was susceptible. Yet at the 
very time of the intrigue, Rochester was writing in his 
diary devout prayers and exquisite spiritual medita- 



tions, with no thought of the public they were found 
among his private papers. A contemptible hypocrite? 
No, it was the same ghastly gap, the same horrible hia- 
tus which has made so much of the tragedy of history. 
Men are not as wicked as the things they do. The pages 
of history are blacker than the hearts of the men who 
made history. With merciful clarity Jesus saw that men 
do awful things without seeing or knowing what they 
do. "Eyes they have, but they do not see/' he said. How 
many tragedies it explains, how many bigotries and 
brutalities it accounts for. Most of the crueL wrongs we 
inflict upon each other are the blows and blunders of 

The Levite who passed by the wounded man in the 
parable was a musician, a member of the Temple choir. 
At least he did -stop and look at the unfortunate man 
in his misery that is, he made a survey of the situa- 
tion, as we are apt to do. Indeed, it is a fad today to 
make such surveys, to gather data, to count the number 
of babies that die undernourished in city slums, filing 
the report for future reference. No doubt such surveys 
are needed, and their findings have value as informa- 
tion; but it is a pity to do nothing about it. Who will 
say that the stinging rebuke of a poet about "organized 
charity, scrimped and iced, in the name of a cautious 
and statistical Christ/' is not deserved? The Levite got 
the facts, and he may have reported the incident to the 
Temple authorities when he arrived in the city; but that 
was the end of it. Nothing was done to help the man 
in desperate need, and the bandits were left free to 
attack the next pilgrim who journeyed that way. 



The attitude of the Innkeeper toward the wounded 
man in the parable was a purely professional one. He 
was paid for his services, and rightly so. There is no 
intimation that he did not take good care of the un- 
fortunate man, or that he overcharged the Samaritan, 
who agreed to pay more if need required. Without the 
inn and its keeper the Samaritan could not have cared 
for the victim of the bandits. He was away from home, 
sixty miles or more something in the story makes one 
feel that he was going in the opposite direction. He 
had no facilities for relief. The inn may stand as a 
symbol of the hospital, the orphanage, the asylum, the 
home for the aged all the benign agencies with which 
we care for the wounded and world-broken. Such agen- 
cies did not exist in the time of Jesus, but they hallow 
the earth today, largely through his influence; and 
within their beneficent walls the finest skill of science 
is'brought to the service of suffering humanity. 

What shall we say of the Samaritan? We do not 
know his name. He did not advertise his philanthropy. 
He found a fellow man in dire plight, wounded, help- 
less, by the side of the road. He was a man of another 
race, another religion. No matter; he picked him up, 
gave him such immediate aid as he could, put him on 
his own beast, took him to the next inn, and paid for 
his keep. He did the natural, fundamental human thing, 
made a clean job of it, and went on about his business. 
Truly did Mohammed say that when man will not help 
man the end of the world has come. Certainly the end 
of the human world has come when the most basic obli- 
gations are ignored, for whatever reason. The bottom 



drops out of society. There is nothing upon which to 
build. If religion fails here, it fails fatally and becomes 
a mockery. 

To us the very word Samaritan is like incense in the 
temple of humanity, by virtue of an artless act en- 
shrined by an inimitable art. But to the lawyer to whom 
the parable was told it was not so. Upon his lips the 
word was a term of contempt and scorn, describing a 
man of a mean and mongrel race. To call a man a 
"Samaritan" was the worst thing he could think of, like 
some of the words we are wont to use Jap, Chink, 
Dago, Nigger! With exquisite irony Jesus made a Sa- 
maritan the hero of his story, finding in the breast of a 
despised outcast man an alabaster box of precious oint- 
ment with which he anointed a fellow man in distress 
as if to show us the loveliness which humanity hides 
from us because we do not love it enough. Alas and 
alack, bigotry blinds us to brotherhood, and racial snob- 
bery robs us of beauty. How much unguessed, anony- 
mous goodness there is in the world, if we look for it. 
Without it human life would rot and fall to pieces. 


The Samaritan befriended a man of another race, 
forgetting ages of profound, unreasoning antipathy; 
and here the parable speaks to us. Upon this earth there 
is no human fact more dark and terrible than racial 
rancor. It is a thing slithered with blood, a breeder of 
bitterness and the mother of wars. What havoc it has 
wrought! Yet even in America, of all places on earth, 



it runs rife, making an undertone of irritation in all of 
our larger communities. It mars private fellowship, it 
poisons public life. Such a spirit is alien to the whole 
genius of America, if we remember that our country, in 
its settlement and development, is a racial symposium, 
in which many peoples took part, each adding some- 
thing precious to the commonwealth. There is room 
for everything in America except hatred, upon which 
nothing can be built 

One has only to study the providential strategy in the 
history of America to see that it is a great fraternal 
enterprise. Eight nationalities set sail on the Mayflower, 
a ship so well advertised that one would think that no 
other boat ever sailed the seas in the brave days of old. 
Seventeen nationalities took part in the settlement and 
development of our central eastern states, like Penn- 
sylvania, New Jersey, and New York. It was fortunate 
that we had such buffer states between the psalm-sing- 
ing Yankees in New England and the fox-hunting 
squires of the South. By happy fortune the population 
of the central states along the far-flung eastern co^st 
line was made up of folk of many races, and that made 
for toleration and fraternity. The oppressed and per- 
secuted of many lands took refuge among us, finding 
a more liberal and kindly fatherland. 

Later, men of many races poured in upon us, flood- 
ing our land. As early as 1650 eighteen languages were 
spoken on Manhattan Island, and today there must 
be eighteen hundred it is a polyglot boarding-house 
of the human race. All of us remember the sentimental 
talk of a Melting Pot, a striking phrase which became 



a thought-saving slogan, until we were suddenly awak- 
ened to racial realities. According to this curious fancy 
America was meant to melt many races into one, after 
the manner of the old button-maker in Peer Gynt, and 
make a new kind of man; whereas the result would 
surely be a monstrosity, as undesirable as it is impos- 
sible. When this foolish fiction exploded, we were well- 
nigh frightened out of our wits by racial f acts to which 
we had been blind. Alas, fear begat hatred, as it al- 
ways does, and all the old rancors returned to tor- 
ment us. 

What we need is not amalgamation but brotherhood, 
not a melting together of races but fellowship a sense 
of the sanctity of unlikeness and the value of different 
races and peoples as adding to the richness and pic- 
turesqueness of life. Each race has a genius of its own, 
and by that token a treasure to contribute to the com- 
munity, if we have the insight to see it and the sense 
to value it. In America the religion of brotherhood Is 
not a theory, or a fine phrase, but a necessity; and here 
the Gospel of Jesus, in which fraternity is vital and 
fundamental, meets our need. If Jerusalem was the city 
of Faith, and Athens the city of Philosophy, and Rome 
the city of Law, and London the city of Liberty, then 
New York, the great city of the future, must be the 
city of Fraternity. 

America is not a New England, as so many think; 
it is not a new Europe; it is a New World. Never since 
time began has there been such a flowing together of 
peoples from the uttermost parts of the earth and the 
isles of the sea. For that reason America must know 


no Saxon race, no Teutonic race, no Slavic race, but only 
the Human Race, of which it is actually a symbol and, 
prophetically, a symphony. Never has there been such 
an adventure in fraternity, so many races living so close 
together on equal terms brothers by necessity, as they 
must at last learn to be in spirit and purpose. There 
is no room in this land for hate, prejudice, or contempt 
of man for man, if we are to build a Beloved Com- 
munity, in which many races mingle without rancor, 
and many faiths without feud. 

For, remember: the Samaritan was merciful in his 
ministry to a man of another religion, and here he has 
something to say to us. Next to racial rancor, religious 
bigotry to use a contradiction of words has been the 
most terrible scourge of mankind. Even in America we 
have always been bigoted and narrow-minded in mat- 
ters of religion, to a degree almost unbelievable. Those 
who came early to our shores to escape persecution did 
not hesitate to persecute others. In New England a man 
had to be a Congregationalism or he was not allowed 
to vote. In Virginia, if he was not an Episcopalian, he 
suffered many disabilities both as to his life and his 
goods. Gentle-hearted folk of the Society of Friends 
were put to death on Boston Common, not for any 
crime, but for their religious beliefs! ~ 

Once more, it was in the buffer states that a better 
spirit prevailed, due in no small part to the Quakers, 
led by Penn, who held that "men who fight about 
religion have no religion to fight about/* In New Am- 
sterdam the Dutch planted their wise principle of tol- 



eration, making it a haven for the harassed of the earth. 
Even Peter Stuyvesant, whose theology was as un- 
bending as his wooden leg,, knew how to live and let 
live, to think and let think. At last, led by Jefferson, 
the spirit of toleration was written into the organic law 
of the land, and we have a free church in a free state. 
At any rate we have a democracy of religion, in which 
all faiths have equal rights. The religion of democracy 
lies ahead of us, awaiting a spiritual interpretation and 
expression of American life and ideals. It is a pitiful 
picture at present, sea set over against sea, some of 
them small enough to be inseas. 

Surely the religion of brotherhood must begin with 
the brotherhood of religion. But it must be unity, not 
uniformity; fellowship, not fusion; fraternity, not mere 
federation. Just as we do not want all races melted 
and run into one mold, neither do we want the various 
religious communions merged into one mush of con- 
cession and compromise. It would mean the impov- 
erishment of all, each losing its distinctive grace in an 
indistinguishable blur. There is an old Wiltshire song 
that I used to hear in England 

If all the world were of one religion 
Many a living thing should die. 

Toleration is not enough; what we want is insight, ap- 
preciation, understanding, by which the unique aud 
precious treasure of each communion becomes the con- 
secration of all each bringing the wine grown in its 
vineyard to the Cup of the Universal Communion, 


The Good Samaritan wrought his work of mercy and 
went on his way, leaving a blessing and benediction 
upon us. The question asked by the lawyer was an- 
swered, but a larger problem was unsolved. Alas, the 
road to Jericho was just as unsafe the day after the 
robbery as it had been the day before. The bandits were 
still at large, ready to prey upon any luckless traveler. 
The Samaritan, alone, could not capture and punish 
the robbers. It was beyond his power. No one could do 
it. Today, we carry the principle of the parable fur- 
ther, or else add another dimension to it. While tak- 
ing care of the bruised and broken by the wayside, we 
organize, set up an office in Jerusalem, and unite to 
clear the whole region of bandits, making all roads 
safe for any who may use them on their lawful avo- 

No one race, no one nation, no one sect can do the 
big things that need to be done in the world of today. 
Only a creative cooperation of many races and sects 
can meet the issues that confront us. It is not a dream; 
it is a desperate necessity and fact. If, for example, we 
are to abolish war, before war brings the civilization 
built up since the fall of the Roman Empire down in 
a charred and smoking ruin, it must be by mobilizing 
the moral intelligence and practical capacity of the race. 
It must begin with the recognition of the fact that the 
good of mankind as a whole does actually exist, and 
that no race, no nation, can be happy and secure alone. 
For this we need the brotherhood of religion, by the 


grace of God flowering into the religion of brother- 
hood, in which the good of all shall become the duty, 
the prayer, and the labor of each. 

Only, such large issues must not thin our thought out 
until it melts into a mist of vague sentiment with no 
grip upon facts. It is idle to talk of world-unity, if we 
cannot keep the peace with our neighbors least of all 
when the world has shriveled to the size of the noisy, 
gossipy neighborhood, in which the races live next 
door to each other. It is futile to dream of a fellowship 
of faiths, if in our own community we cannot worship 
God each in the way his heart loves best, while working 
together for His Kingdom. The priest in the parable 
was no doubt intent on saving the world, but he did 
nothing to save one man from despair and death by the 

The power of an endless life, about which the lawyer 
asked Jesus, is not a vague something off up in the 
sky, remote for the dust and tragedy of human life. It 
is life here upon earth from day to day, since eternity 
is now/ like the sky which begins at the top of the 
ground; a life of faith, of love, of duty and mercy and 
joy. It is one with all dear fellowships, with every ten- 
der tie uniting us with those we love; and wider still, 
with every growing bond of justice and pity and hope 
which binds us with humanity, by which every man 
who needs is a neighbor and should be discovered as 
a brother. And it is by living a neighborly life in these 
short days of sun and frost that we come, at last, to 
know "our old neighbor, God. 


The Next Step 
in Religion 


And he made as though he would 
have gone -further. 

Luke 24:28. 

Pilgrim Christ, and the history of Christianity is the 
story of his journey adown the centuries, a commentary 
on the words, "He appeared unto them in another 
form." Only, alas, as at Emmaus, he is not recognized, 
and men do not know who is leading them until he is 
leaving them to continue his great errand in the world. 
Humanity, if left to itself, would stand still, dwell in 
a cottage, and keep Christ with it; but it cannot be, 
though he will tarry for an hour to bless the Bread 
of Fellowship. 

Evermore the wind is on the heath, and the Great 
Adventurer makes advance into new lands and new 
times. All through the years we trace his footsteps; in 
the joyous heroism of the early church, with its "strange 
power called weakness"; in the five centuries follow- 
ing the formative period of theology, when the issues 
of faith were thought through; in the Middle Ages, 
rich in art and full of beautiful and strange personali- 
ties; in the Reformation, with its affirmation of the 



sanctity of the home, the worth of personality, and the 
competence of man in religion. Often the sky was over- 
cast and the way dim, but that shining Figure was ever 
on before, beckoning a laggard church to follow. 

By its very nature the Gospel of Christ is an expand- 
ing, unfolding power in the life of man, revealing new 
wonders as "the thoughts of men are widened with 
the process of the suns." Only, we must remember the 
profound paradox in the words of St. John, confirmed 
many times in the history of our faith: "Whosoever 
advances and abideth not in the teaching of Christ hath 
not God." Advancing and abiding, liberty and loyalty 
in that sign the church has conquered in days agone. 
Ardent but misguided leaders break with the truth as it 
is in Jesus, but their movements end in futility. Always 
the power of renewal emerges from the deep heart of 
the church itself, not from the outside, as so many im- 
agine; and so it will be in the ages ahead. An out- 
standing fact of our day is the number of choice spirits 
who have broken with Christian tradition only to find 
themselves in the presence of Jesus, and enthralled by 
his personality. They have rejected many dogmas about 
Jesus, but they dare not reject him, since he has the 
words of eternal life. But, alas, such souls are few, since 
the plain fact is that most of those who hold aloof from 
the church do so because they do not want to be dis- 
turbed by the claims of religion, or plagued by its ideals. 
The fortunes of Christianity and the church are almost, 
though not quite, one. 

Today, as in other days, a living Christ is trying 
to lead a timid, fearful church into a new age of adven- 



ture and enterprise; but it holds back. Always it has 
been so. Winslow reports of John Robinson, the pastor 
of the Pilgrim Fathers, that he "bewailed the state and 
condition of the Reformed Churches, who had come to 
a period in religion, and would go no further than the 
instruments of their reformation as, for example, the 
Lutherans; they could not be drawn to go beyond what 
Luther saw. And so also the Calvinists they stick 
where he left them. For though Luther and Calvin were 
precious, shining lights in their times, yet God hath 
not revealed His whole will to them, and were they 
now living they would be as ready and willing to em- 
brace further light to that they had received/' Those 
words might have been written yesterday or this morn- 
ing, so true are they to the inertia of the church, and 
its desire to stay where its last leaders left it. Man, even 
Christian man, if not totally depraved, is at least totally 
lazy, or else is the victim of fear. 

Never was the truth set forth more picturesquely 
than by Joseph Parker in his striking sermon on "Faith 
Self-Enlarging/' in which he shows that faith of neces- 
sity must grow, by its own inner logic, and that it is 
only real when it does grow. His text was the words of 
Jesus to the men of his day who professed to believe 
in Moses: "Had ye believed in Moses ye would have 
believed in me"; because a living faith will recognize 
its own fruits and fulfillments in new forms of faith. 
A faith, if it is alive, always modernizes itself, catches 
the last vision, the last phase of revelation. Faith is not 
final; it is a beginning, a dawn, a seed, a spring with 
many summers in its heart. A church does not really 



believe its own creed until it is willing, and even eager, 
to add to it, restate it, following it into new revela- 
tions and applications. Today a, new vision of God is 
transfiguring a changing church which professes to re- 
main unchanged, and denounces the changes as in all 
the past. 

Much has happened betimes; a world-view is pass- 
ing away, and- the inner ideal and outlook of man has 
altered. Besides, a wild s storm of war has swept over 
us, shattering old dogmatisms and optimisms, and leav- 
ing a black swirl of wreckage in its wake. The hearts 
of men are deeply troubled, wanting to believe but 
finding it difficult. Our age has an intense, eager, wist- 
ful longing for spiritual reality, for a more satisfying 
sense of God. Men want religion, but they do not know 
where or how to get it. Often they seem to want its 
consolations without its high commitments, its delight 
without its discipline. But they want it, knowing that 
the human problem will not work without the spiritual 
factor. There has never been so vast a force of incipient 
spiritual activity, to be influenced for good or ill, as 
there is today. 

JEetr-eddly enough, if religion attracts, the church 
iepels. An obsolete sectarianism no longer expresses 
the real religion of our time which, so far as it reveals 
itself, is more a practical mysticism than a system of 
dd>gma. There is not a sect whose original reason for 
b'eing is valid today, or whose central insistence has 
any relation to the actual issues of our time. The dif- 
ferences which divided our fathers are not resolved; 
they are forgotten. They do not signify. Such debates 



seem idle alongside the acute sense of injustice social, 
racial, industrial which festers in the very souls of 
people of all ranks, rich and poor, high and low. One 
detects an eclipse of faith in the hearts of many in the 
church, who carry on by the momentum of memory 
and habit; a pathetic scanning of the sky line for a new 
portent, a strained intentness of listening for a new 
accent of faith. What an opportunity for a pilot-voice 
at the prow of our Ship of the Spirit, sailing in new 
and strange waters! 

Alas, temporarily at least, we are deadlocked be- 
tween an archaic orthodoxy and an arid, negative mod- 
ernism, both alike impotent to deal with the problem 
of redemption in its tragic and gigantic modern set- 
ting. One abides but does not advance; the other ad- 
vances but does not abide. One looks backward and 
loses the vision of the Pilgrim Christ; the other tries 
to trim a titanic Christ down to fit its fastidiousness. 
Modernism, as it now stands^ is no more a Gospel than 
were the meditations of Marcus Aurelius. A plague on 
both their houses! What we need is a further step in 
religion, an altogether other dimension of faith and 
fellowship, if we are to get on with the Christian en- 
terprise. Either we must go forward to a greater Chris- 
tianity or be forced out of religion altogether by the 
tide of cynical materialism now flowing losing, first 
of all, the loyalty and service of a generation of virile 
and educated youth. 

Is Christianity dying, as Arnold Bennett and others 
tell us it is, almost as if it were a bit of good news? 
Yes, of course it is, though for a reason they do not 



understand. It is the genius of Christianity to die, like 
its Master, and rise again radiant and new-born. Ever- 
more it must die to outworn forms of creed and rite, 
and rise to a new vision of Truth; must die to its nar- 
row sectarianism, and rise to a sense of the unity of 
things which differ; must die to an inadequate individ- 
ualism, and rise as a "Beloved Community." We are 
on the eve of great change and advance; new id6as of 
the spiritual world and its laws are at the door. Men of 
spiritual awareness detect a spirit moving in the cur- 
rents of our time, like the Ezekiel vision of a spirit in 
the wheels, prophesying a new demand of the human 
soul. More light will yet break forth, if we have eyes 
to see and a heart for high adventure in the fellow- 
ship of him who is going further. 
" What is the next step in religion? We have tried 
dogma, and it involves us in endless debate, and 
bigotries unbelievable. ,The time is at hand when we 
must advance from philosophy to fellowship, from 
Faith to Love; because religion is love, as God is Love, 
and faith attains reality only in love. The word Credo, 
1 believe, does not solve the crossword puzzle, unless 
we add the word Amo, I love, in which Jesus summed 
up his Gospel. "Love one another" how much, how 
long, how far? "as I have loved you" There is the 
measure, the standard, the prophecy of our love. If only 
the arms of Christ, still outstretched on the Cross, might 
be unloosed to clasp us in one embrace and draw us 
nearer to his heart! Then we should know a truth 
deeper than dogma, holier than ritual, and as inclusive 
as the love of God, uniting us in a creative, cooperative, 



invincible fellowship. Here truth, goodness and beauty 
blend. Love in thought is Truth; love in action is 
Goodness; love in expression is Beauty. Love is indeed 
the fulfillment of the law, as it is the confirmation of 
faith and the realization of life, wherein liberty and 
loyalty join with "the deep power of joy/' 

But is love enough? Something deep and drastic is 
needed, as all agree, if the church is to meet the issues 
and master the demands of our day. No restatement of 
dogma, no rearrangement of machinery, will do. A 
vague otherworldliness, with its cult of selfish ecstasy, 
is as impotent as the effort to make up in "pep" what 
is lacking in prophecy. No, there must be a daring and 
heroic advance from Truth to Power, if our quest is 
to become a conquest. A line from Unamuno, the Span- 
ish seer, may give us a hint: "My religion is to know 
the truth in life and the life in truth" Truth we have 
in richness, truth enough to set us free from all our 
ills, once we know how to release its pent-up power 
and how to use it. St. Paul said that the Gospel is "the 
dynamite of God unto salvation," and it is equal to all 
the wild forces of an age of reaction and revolt, as it 
has been in other ages gone by. 

How can these things be? One of the richest books 
of recent years is the Selected Letters of Baron 
von Hugel, who pondered much on our plight and 
pointed to a way out. A mystic by genius and experi- 
ence, he was also a philosopher, and not unaware of 
science and its meaning. He knew that God is not only 
the supremely spiritual but also the supremely con- 
crete, as Lotze was wont to say. He saw that the older 



mysticism, by seeking absorption in the , abstract, be- 
came hazy and empty, despite many white flowers of 
the spirit which it grew. By the same token, if we ad- 
journ the mystic quest of the Eternal, our religion be- 
comes earthy and heavy. Science and mysticism belong 
together, he said, as twin activities of the soul, each to 
correct and confirm the other. The tragedy of our age is 
that they are at odds, whereas they ought to be the two 
wings of the human spirit. If we obey the law of tKe 
power, the power will obey us. Men of science are try- 
ing to tap the atom, or the ether, seeking new sources 
of energy. Just so we ought to learn that the law of the 
spirit brings the life that is in Christ; and that life is 
power even the power of an Endless Life. 

If we turn to the New Testament we find that the 
key-word is power, and its echoes fill us with awe. 
Jesus spoke with power, and his words had the force 
of deeds. He was more than the Truth, he was the 
power of Truth, evoking new energies and new capaci- 
ties, it almost seems, in the life of man. In his fellow- 
ship men found themselves able to do what hitherto 
they were unable to do. There was a new mastery of old 
tyrannies, and ancient enemies sin, disease, fear, 
death were flung in the dust. So it has been, in some 
degree, in all the great ages of the church; and such 
power awaits our use when we seek it and are ready and 
worthy to use it power from on high to lift our fee- 
bleness and failure. Nothing can save the church and 
make it equal to its task today but the Power that cre- 
ated it. The vast and restless mood now upon us may 
be divinely intended to drive us back from secondary 



methods and devices to the source of consecration and 

Only such love and power as were in Jesus can lead 
our faith jorth from Dogma to Deed, making the 
church a center of unity and service, in which men live 
together as sons of God in gladness and good will. The 
religion of Jesus is love, comradeship, fellowship, min- 
istry, or it is nothing. It is not first a theology, but a * 
friendship. If it is impossible for men to unite in the 
love of Christ, then Christianity is impracticable, and 
had better be given up. But it will not be given up. 
Sooner or later the church will realize the will to fel- 
lowship and draw to itself those who are worthy to be 
called the disciples of Christ. Unless the power of Chris- 
tian love fulfills itself in the church, healing our envies, 
rebuking our schisms, and melting the bigotries that 
blind us to brotherhood, how can it influence the struc- 
ture of the social order? Our business is not to do some- 
thing for the church, but to do something with it. 

Here is the challenge of a sad and distracted age to 
the. followers of Christ today. Are we ready to meet it? 
The words of Jesus are as true of a church as they are 
of an individual: " Whosoever will save his life shall 
lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for my sake 
shall find it/' As Edward Irving said long ago, what ', 
our age needs more than all else is a "demonstration , 
of a higher style of Christianity something more mag-j 
nanimous, more heroic, than this age is accustomed to/' 
That is to say, what we need is an adventurous church, 
daring to make trial of the law of love first in its own 
life, and then in its ministry to human need. Let us 



give ourselves to it utterly, nor think it too great an 
achievement for the church of today, with its plodding 
and faltering advance toward the prophetic vision of 
the Love of God that cannot fail! 

Where is Christ in the tumult of our time? The an- 
swer is, look for him where the struggle for justice is 
fiercest, where human need is most piteous, where the 
tragedy of life is sharpest look there and you will 
behold, as in the fiery furnace of old, a form like unto 
the Son of Man. There, too, is our post of duty and of 
danger, if we are to make the church truly Christian 
that is to say, a sacramental fellowship of those who 
love in the service of those who need. Evermore our 
Leader makes as though he would go further, and still 
further, along the Road of the Loving Heart a Pil- 
grim in the twilight, in his hand the nail-prints of the 
Cross, in his heart die hope of the world. 


When Christmas 


He took a little child, and set him 
m the midst of them. 

Mark 9:36. 



swift to go, another spirit broods over us, healing our 
broken hearts and jarring wills. Strife, anger, and van- 
ity fall away, awhile we live in a gentler world where 
love is law. If it might abide with us it would be well 
with our humanity, and pity and joy would walk the 
common ways of life. But, alas, we are not ready for 
its simple faith and wise humility, and the day is gone 
while the welcome is still on our lips. 

Yet it means much, it means everything, to have a 
prophetic day, symbol of the Eternal Child and "the, 
cradle endlessly rocking/' It is needed in this hard 
world, if only to keep alive the souls of us, and to re- 
new our faith in things well-nigh forgotten. May it 
flourish to the confounding of all unkindness, in a time 
of bitter cynicism and blurred ideals, when men play 
lackey to fear and put their dreams on allowance. It 
brings us back to the profounder faith, free of the 
shadow of old Night and the dread of the Morrow. It 
takes us down from our towering pride, and teaches 



us humility and sweet charity. Aye, it rescues us from 
our own. tyranny, and gives us hope that we may find 
our lost child-heart again. 

For, even in fairyland no one ever heard such a story 
as Christmas tells; it must be true, because no one 
could have imagined it. Beside this tale, every romance 
in the world is tedious and tame, and the record is as 
amazing as the history: the perfect art of the story fits 
the perfect poetry of the fact. Only an ultimate art, 
nobly artless, is equal to such audacity of insight and a 
truth so fantastic. If, as Keats tells us, beauty is truth, 
and truth beauty, no other evidence of its authenticity 
is needed. It is beyond human invention; only God 
could have dreamed it. 


What a story as incredible as it is ineffable telling 
how, in a tiny town, in a stall in a stable, under a sing- 
ing sky, at "the end of the way of a wandering star," 
God was born a Babe, bringing a new pity and joy into 
the life of man, dividing time into before and after! 
Once aloft and aloof, cloud-robed and shrouded in awe, 
God drew near, striving to enter our fleeting life, try- 
ing all doors, and finally making Himself small as a lit- 
the child and lying down on the doorstep of the world, 
until the world, moved by the cry of a Babe, opened the 
door that had been barred to threats and thunders, and 
took the Child in. Was any story ever more fantastic 3 
at once more impossible and more enchanting! 

It is unthinkable, say the wise knowing not what 



they say because the Infinite One who inhabits eter- 
nity cannot take the form of man. But God is not truly 
great unless He can reveal Himself in little things, in 
a cozy room and a hearthside, in the love of the home 
and the family. If He is too high to be lowly, He is too 
small to be God. Love is lost in immensities; it comes 
in simple, gentle ways, and that is why, on Christmas, 
religion is so homey and full of caresses, showing how 
we are "caught in the coil of God's romances/' and 
held in His arms. Hence the joy that sets the world 
singing, and a haunting loveliness in the heart; warm, 
tender, glad. God did not come a giant to little folk; 
He took our tiny shape and let us hold Him in our 

If there were no Christmas, our id#*of God might 
be august and awful; it could never be homey and 
happy. A God who revealed Himself only in suns and 
systems would remain remote; He could never be inti- 
mately near. Such words as "eternity" and "infinity" 
chill our spirits and make our minds reel. They tell of 
a God who sits in silence on the far away hills of won- 
der, dim and unapproachable, a dweller in the distance. 
But Christmas reveals a Little God, joyous and gentle, 
at once eternal and humble, nestling in the heart. 

If, stated starkly, the story reads like a leaf out of a 
fairy-book, we must remember that only the thinnest 
of veils divides fairyland from the truth. Alas, the veil 
may be as thick as a stone wall, unless we have kept 
something easily lost in the rough ways of the world, as 
a page from a well-beloved book will show. In the 
Journal of Amiel we meet a man sensitive, shy, smitten 



with the malady of thought, and often sad, albeit rich 
in varied insight. One entry tells of the tumult of his 
mind as he finished reading Schopenhauer, now so much 
in vogue, as if the petulant pessimism of the philoso- 
pher had infected his spirit. It left him all awry, grop- 
ing amid dim dogmas, cloudy creeds, and a wisdom 
that is not wise. When he asked himself, as so many ask 
today, "What, then, do I believe in?" he did not know. 
Then, suddenly, in the depth of his heart he felt a stir, 
and heard the laugh of a child: 

"Folly! I believe in goodness, and hope that 
goodness will prevail. Deep within this iron- 
ical and disappointed being of mine there is 
a child hidden a frank, sad, simple creature, 
who believes in the ideal, in love, in holiness, 
and all the heavenly superstitions. A whole 
millennium of idyls sleep in my heart: I am a 
pseudo-skeptic, a pseudo-scoffer." 

Ay, happy is the man deep down in whose heart the 
gay laugh of a child free, trustful, joyous makes his 
grim, gray philosophy foolish. It is to a hidden child 
in us, sleeping but never dead, that the story makes its 
appeal, and that is why, when the clouds are off our 
souls and we are most truly ourselves, free from the 
pose of being wise, we know that it is true. The highest 
truth is never known by logic, but by love. God is an 
artist and does not hang His pictures in a cold, dim 
light. The life of God, which is beyond our ken, may 
be more like the heart of an unspoiled child than a 
king on his throne, to whom cringing men bow down. 


There may be nothing in the universe, even with its 
light-year measurements, greater than the love that for- 
gives a penitent man and binds up a broken heart. So 
Jesus taught he whose generation and affinity are with 
elemental and eternal things and by following him 
we come at last, not to the child that once we were, 
but to the child we never yet have been. 


For, in a true sense, the urge into childhood, as it 
is called, is not backward but forward, not a return into 
an old but a growth and unfolding into a new child- 
hood. After all, children, as some one has said, are 
rather symbols of youth than youth itself; they are un- 
consciously young. Whereas, in later life, if we be truly 
wise, we have the power of converting the symbol into 
the reality, and of being young and knowing it. As 
Jesus told us, unless we become, not little children, but 
as little children, we shall in no wise enter the King- 
dom of Heaven. Such words should give us pause, 
since Jesus, whom our age is trying so hard to under- 
stand, so often insists that unless we have the child- 
attitude toward God and life and man, we cannot even 
see His Kingdom, much less enter it. 

Put plainly, if the words of Jesus mean anything, 
they mean that if we are losing or, rather, if we have 
failed to attain the spirit of the child, we are losing the 
Gospel, or can never find it; losing it utterly, and need 
to be born again, as the Teacher told the grave and 
courteous scholar who visited him by night, if we are 



to regain or find it. Our scholarship, it would seem, of 
which we are so proud, is quite futile. Some artist ought 
to paint the puzzled look on the face of Nicodemus 
when he asked how a man, who is old, can be born 
again, and the sweet wonder on the face of Jesus, who 
was astonished that a teacher of faith should not know 
what he meant. 

Here, no less, is the pathos of our generation, with 
its bright, brittle, bitter sophistication, and the tiresome 
egotism of an all-analyzing self-consciousness which 
has brought it to the verge of spiritual paralysis and 
futilitarianism. It is fascinated with Jesus, haunted by 
him, pitying and patronizing him by turns, trying to 
know him but failing, finding his mind naive, childish 
and primitive, and his faith in a divine Father an infan- 
tile complex. Yet even those who have broken with the 
Christian tradition find themselves in the presence of 
Jesus, unable to escape him, enthralled by his person- 
ality, as if he knew a secret which our super-cleverness 
has missed, and without which life loses its meaning 
and luster. Evermore Jesus passes by on his errand, and 
men follow his figure with wistful eyes, but not with 
their minds and feet. 

Life is in little fragments today, set under a micro- 
scope for inspection when it is not being flung on a 
screen so that we may watch our heart beat, note its 
score, and check its response to injected stimuli. Ac- 
tually, we have a race that knows itself and is so fas- 
cinated with the knowledge that it cannot stop looking 
at itself. There is no longer any privacy, scarcely sincer- 
ity all is pose and posture. Jesus warned us not to do 



our alms or prayers to be seen of men, but, alas, that is 
the least of our troubles the awful trouble is that we 
do everything to be seen of ourselves! Has a self-con- 
scious self-knowledge robbed us of that wholeness and 
simplicity which alone makes Jesus intelligible? Has 
his word, "The kingdom of heaven is within you," taken 
up by the devil of introspection, become not a haven but 
a horror? Have we looked into everything and through 
everything so long that we now overlook the little 
door that leads into the land of Christmas where love 
is just love, and beauty is just beauty? 


To say it otherwise: can the sophisticated modern 
mind, so wise in its own estimate, so mature in its own 
judgment, and so emancipated, ever enter into the sim- 
plicity, the humility, the wonder and sweet wisdom of 
the Jesus way of thinking? Most of the elements in 
its make-up run exactly counter to His faith and the 
spirit of His life. Take the story of Tolstoi, so typical 
of our restless age, going without arriving, seeking 
without finding; a great, God-haunted soul the man 
was humanity! to whom the most terrible shadow was 
not death, but the meaninglessness of life. After try- 
ing everything, after going everywhere, and finding 
neither truth nor peace,* he turned to Jesus, as all must 
do, sooner or later. But, alas, unable to become as a 
little child, like Dostoievski who kept, or won, the 
child-heart, and saw all souls as troops of little chil- 
dren, some with dirty faces and bedraggled frocks 



Tolstoi came to Jesus not in humility, but in humilia- 
tion; and so missed a great secret. Let us not chide 
Tolstoi; his quest is also our quest, and happy is he who 
finds. There is mystery enough in life to rebuke the 
proud, and light enough, if we follow the gleam, to 
revive the spirit of the humble. 

If the wise and witty mind of our day, so bewilder- 
ingly intelligent and capable, will not bow at the Man- 
ger, like the Magi of old, what has it to offer? Surely 
it dare not give up the quest and resign itself to the re- 
ligion of despair, lest its own wisdom be impeached as 
the ultimate folly, ending in obfuscation. It is only fair 
to ask that it set to work to discover a meaning in life, 
or to invent a meaning for it, else we all fall together 
into a hound's ditch. For, if life is futile and without 
meaning, by the same token our seal to know about it 
is futile and silly, since the true is no better than the 
false, both being vanity. In the past Wisdom might 
dwell in an ivory tower, aloof from direct interest in 
actual life, a kind of umpire of its issues. But that is 
no longer possible, if only because the very value of 
Wisdom itself is in debate, and it must defend its 
tower. For the first time the real issue is clearly seen, 
and may not be evaded: the fact of an adequate value in 
life, and a valid worth in human effort, is as much an 
issue for the wise men of the world as it is for those 
who follow the Christmas star. Which way, then, lies 
the clearest light and the ttuest vision? 

For some of us, something in the spirit of Christ- 
mas makes it plain that the cocksure sophistication of 
our day is pathetically superficial, its glittering clever- 



ness profoundly stupid, and its towering pride tragi- 
cally pitiful. As one listens again to the old, immortal 
story, and sings carols that echo adown the ages, the 
scene which many think is only a fairy-dream which 
we have agreed to dream for a day, and then forget, 
seems nearer to the truth than all our dim philosophies, 
if only because it does not seek too high for what is 
near by. 

After all, perhaps the most awful error of our smart 
and giddy-paced age is that we have mistaken knowl- 
edge for truth, and cleverness for wisdom, and have 
forgotten to distinguish between the "childish things" 
which St. Paul said should be put aside, and the great 
childlike things which abide, and to which we owe the 
strength and sanity of life. 


By an odd freak of fact, the men in our day who are 
nearest to the spirit and mind of Jesus in their method 
and approach are men of science. Long ago Huxley 
said the older Huxley, not his descendant who shows 
us in an exquisite art the humor, irony and pathos of 
futility that the words of Jesus, "Except ye become 
as a little child," are the most perfect description of the 
spirit of science in its search for reality. If a man would 
know scientific truth, Huxley said, he must sit down 
before fact as a child, eager, humble, teachable, rich 
in wonder and pure in heart; and such a spirit is no 
less the secret of finding the truth of faith. And it is 
the glory of Christmas that it makes known a truth 


which can never be uttered, but can only be incarnated 
and acted. 

To the man of science, to say it once more, the sim- 
plicity and wonder of a childlike faith is no difficulty; 
it is his habit of mind and heart. In his laboratory today 
he is like Alice in Wonderland, only his findings are 
more fantastic. Nor is he averse to imagery as an aid, 
since his world-view is far remote from that of the 
rationalist, with its neat logical perfection, and he 
must be content with imperfect symbols of truth, if 
that is the only alternative available. For example, the 
Rutherford-Bohr atom is an inherently impossible en- 
tity; but every physicist believes in it as the best picture, 
so far devised, of ultimate facts. The only alternative is 
to feign contentment with a mass of dynamical equa- 
tions, which mean little and suggest nothing in the ab- 
sence of the mental image of the atom. 

In other words, as a man of science has to content 
himself with conceptions which are consciously sym- 
bolic, inadequate and lacking even in consistency, so a 
religious man is justified in adopting a childlike faith, 
unless some more perfect knowledge is available to him. 
And if, in exchange for such a faith, he is offered the 
commonplaces of thought, or high-flown metaphysics, 
or dull dogma decked out in fine phrases, a sound in- 
stinct will justify him in rejecting it, trusting a deeper 
prompting, and knowing that the time when he need 
no longer "see in a glass, darkly," has not yet arrived. 
Nor may he hope to find an imagery of reality at once 
more intimate and august than the Christmas picture, 


with the brooding beauty of Mother and Child, and 
the white star of the ideal in the sky. 

For, unless our race is love-lifted and star-led, what 
hope have we that war will ever end, and the slum be 
cleansed, and mankind attain to a collective life that is 
just and merciful and full of joy? There is no valid fact 
against a great-spirited cooperation of nations and races 
but this, that we have a childish fear and lack a happy, 
childlike faith in the impossible things, which are alone 
worth the doing. Like the boys and girls in the market- 
place, whom Jesus watched at play, envy, spite, greed, 
petty prides and, above all, jealousy these are the real 
obstacles to those brave large reconstructions, those dar- 
ing brotherly feats of generosity that will yet turn hu- 
man life of which our lives are tiny parts into a 
glad, gracious and triumphant fraternity all around this 
sunlit earth. 

Ages ago Julian of Norwich, whose name is still as 
fair and as fragrant as a blackthorn against a sky of 
vivid blue, and as tender as mother love and child 
trust, wrote this line: "To me was shown no higher 
stature than childhood' '; and all the great mystics agree 
with her vision. They know what Jesus meant when he 
said: "Whosoever shall receive a little child in my 
name, receiveth me; and whosoever shall receive me, 
receiveth him that sent me/' George MacDonald, who 
was half a child and half an angel, tried in his Un- 
spoken Sermons to expound that text, and failed in- 
evitably so, because it is a white truth which human 
words discolor! 


The Challenge 
of Lent 

In Appleton Chapel, Harvard University, the 
first Sunday in Lent. 


Create in me a clean heart, O God; 
and renew a right spirit within me. 
Psalm 51:10. 

Passion Week, and its commemoration of the great sac- 
rifice. As men realize once more that their hope is 
rooted in divine suffering, a certain instinct in them re- 
coils from self-indulgence. For that is what Lent im- 
plies and involves, if it be taken seriously and in a mood 
befitting its solemnity and beauty. It Is a challenge to 
honest inner inspection and the cultivation of those dis- 
ciplines of the soul without which spiritual reality may 
become as unreal as a mirage. The ancient saying, "The 
beginning of wisdom is the desire for discipline," is as 
true in the art of life as it is in the life of art. 

No doubt to the sleek modern man, with his wor- 
ship of comfort, it may seem absurd that any mortal 
should forego a dinner for the sake of his soul. To me, 
even in its crudest aspect, it is eloquent of the fact that 
man does not live by bread alone. Surely any man, to 
whom the Garden of Gethsemane is more sacred than 
the garden of Epicurus, must be arrested by the spec- 
tacle of millions of his fellows setting themselves to 


face, even for a brief time, the duty of self-denial. 
Admit that Lenten forms often obscure the idea they 
seek to embody, and that merit is too easily attached 
to means rather than to ends, it is none the less impres- 
sive. Abstinence, as such, may have little value, but 
that it may be put to high ends no one will deny. Lent 
may at least remind us that Christ does call us to some- 
thing far higher and nobler than physical ease. 

What a shame, cried St. Bernard, to be a delicate 
member of the Head crowned with thorns! Habitual 
temperance is more religious, and more wholesome, 
than recurrent austerities, but we have not attained to 
that grace. Normally, no doubt, the conditions most fa- 
vorable to holiness result from the healthy interaction 
of body and soul, but life in our age is not normal. It is 
sodden with materialism and soured with cynicism. We 
may rightly reject the ascetic theory as a mistaken dual- 
ism, but there is another side to that truth. Nor must 
we forget that some of the loftiest and loveliest souls this 
earth has known used strange, stern means as helps to 
the holy life. A call for a week of self-denial in Paris 
some years ago was accompanied by an extract from a 
letter by Wilfred Monod running thus: 

"How is it that Protestants have produced, 
on a man like Pere Gratry, the impression 
which he formulates as follows? 'Protestant- 
ism is, in essence, the abolition of sacrifice. 
To abolish abstinence and fasting; to abolish 
the necessity of good works, effort, struggle, 
virtue; to shut up sacrifice in Jesus alone and 



not let it pass to us; no more to say, as St. 
Paul did, I fill up what is wanting in the suf- 
ferings of Christ, but rather to say to Jesus 
on his cross, Suffer alone, O Lord there is 
Protestantism/ " 

Of course, sacrifice means more than doing without 
food, and it is going too far to say that Protestantism 
abolishes good works, effort, virtue; but the latter part 
of the statement is only too true. Both in theory and in 
practice we have shut up sacrifice in Jesus alone, hold- 
ing that the merit of his suffering is imputed to us with- 
out our sharing his suffering. Not so St. Paul, whose 
passion it was to be a partaker of the fellowship of the 
sufferings of Christ, if so that he might win the high 
prize of the life eternal. St. Bernard, not less than 
Wesley, taught the goodly gospel of free grace, but he 
did not feel that it exempted him from a habit of aus- 
tere living. Nor did Wesley, who fasted every Friday 
as long as he lived, and partook of the Holy Com- 
munion fifteen times in the last six weeks of his life, 
because he needed such aids in the practice of salvation. 
Neither of these masters of the spiritual life neglected 
the stern culture of the soul, as so many of us are wont 
to do, under the notion that the virtues are gifts and 
not trophies. Pere Gratry was right in pointing this out 
as a grave defect in our teaching, and even more so in 
our practice, of the religious life. 

If this is true of Protestantism in general, I fear it is 
still more true of that wing of it which calls itself, not 
always truly, liberal. Here, at least, I may be permitted 


to speak frankly and to the point, applying my words 
more severely to myself than to any other. If I allow 
myself to be called a liberal Christian, it is not because 
I like defining my Christianity by an adjective for I 
do not. But I somehow got the idea that this move- 
ment meant that a man is free to be a Christian, not 
that he holds his Christianity loosely, if not lightly. It 
had come to me that a liberal is one who has the same 
charity toward the past as toward the present, and is as 
willing to listen to St. Bernard as to Bernard Shaw. At 
any rate, it had been told me that the liberal pulpit re- 
jected certain dogmas about Christ, and I thought that 
was because it wanted Christ brought nearer to us 
with the demand which I knew would plague me with 
an unsatisfiable passion to be more like him. Some of 
us thought it was discontented with doctrines of the 
Atonement, because it wanted the reality that we are 
called to be crucified with Christ, that he may rise in 
us. We thought it held the gospel of salvation which 
bids a man be willing to stand naked before the Awful 
Holiness, seeking "purity rather than peace/' as New- 
man made his motto. Were we mistaken? If so, then ', 
liberalism shall know me no longer, for who teaches an 
easy gospel teaches a gospel of perdition, whose end is 

This is true, whatever else be false that following 
Christ is a great adventure, and it means that we must 
take up a cross and bear it. Much as we may admire 
modern life, with many of the ideals of this indulgent 
age there can be no compromise, if we are to be fol- 
lowers of the Master. What fills me with a deep dis- 



quiet about our Christianity today, both liberal and or- 
thodox, is that it is so harmless. It is so tame, so timid, 
so tepid a kind of glorified lollipop. Even if we apply 
it to social questions, as we talk so much of doing, there 
will be little result unless it has more power in it than 
it has now. It behooves us to think of the reality and 
ministry of our religion as we look toward the Passion 
of Him who, being rich, became poor, and was a friend 
of the lowly and forlorn. Lent evokes such thoughts, 
and it is therefore that we should keep it and wisely 
use it, doubly so in an age when "Whirl is King" and 
noise is terrifying, lest as the Wages of Hurry we lose 
our souls. 

Alas, instead of being a period of inner discipline, 
Lent has become a relief from the dizzy social whirl; a 
time of moral manicuring! Penitence? For a few devout 
souls, yes; but for the mass of church folk it is little 
more than a form. No doubt we need to deal with the 
little gray sins which eat away our peace; but is there 
to be no prayer and fasting for the dark social sins 
which make human life a hell? No broken and con- 
trite heart for the sin of war, which desolates human- 
ity and leaves trails of skeletons across the earth? No 
repentance for racial rancor, and the bigotry which 
blinds us to brotherhood? No sackcloth and ashes for 
the sin of schism which divides the church and makes it 
impotent; for pettiness of soul, for our Pickwickian talk 
about unity? No bitter sorrow that the Gospel of Jesus 
has become in our hands a religion of easy edification 
rather than of daring moral adventure; jam, not dyna- 
mite? Yet, if we look into our own hearts we shall find 


the key to the chaos, and why the world is so awry, 
since the social scene is our own lives writ large. O my 
soul, remember! 

For one thing, Lent brings up the whole question as 
to the relation of the life of the body to the life of the 
spirit. Such a question cannot be discussed here at 
length, but it is a far-reaching one and may be hinted 
at It is good common sense, as well as wise Platonic 
philosophy, that he who devotes himself to his appe- 
tites will have thoughts wingless and alien to the sky. 
Think of die fasting how you will, "a stuffed body can- 
not see clearly," as the old axiom assures us. Much less 
can it see the invisible things which ask for close and 
deep thinking. Asceticism, in its true sense, is simply 
a disciplined effort to gain an end, nothing more. Every 
man, if he has any ideal of any sort, is more or less an 
ascetic whether he knows it or not. That is, he begins, 
if he be wise, by cutting off what is incompatible with 
attainment. Thus an athlete goes into training, and by 
renunciation, by obeying rigid rules, makes his muscles 
strong and his nerves firm the early Christians called 
themselves "spiritual athletes/' Thus a man of affairs 
foregoes many pleasures to win the prize he aims at. 
Lent is a period of training for the soul, in behalf of a 
deeper insight, a fearless self-examination, and a better 
ordered inner life. 

As such it is not beyond the reach of the most flac- 
cid of us, since neither our bodies nor our wills are as 
finely tempered instruments as they ought to be. Wil- 
liam James, my honored and dear teacher, urged men 
to keep alive in them the "faculty of effort," by doing 



each day something for no other reason than that they 
would rather not do it. By such renunciations, he said, 
we attain a twofold end: we strengthen a habit of self- 
control, and we prepare ourselves to stand when the 
hour of dire need draws near, lest it find us unnerved 
and untrained to stand the test. In one of his letters to 
his children, Gladstone urged them to "put habit on the 
side of the spiritual life," and his wisdom was born of 
his own experience, as we know from the story of his 
life. Certain it is that a man inured to habits of con- 
centrated attention, energetic volition, and self-denial 
will be unshaken, while his softer fellows fall. "A goocf 
will is the substance of all perfection," said the author 
of The Cloud of Unknowing^ and he added: 

"Silence is not God, nor speaking; fasting 
is not God, nor eating; loneliness, nor com- 
pany; nor yet any of all the other two such 
contraries. He is hidden between them, and 
may be found only by love of thine heart. 
He may not be known by reason, nor con- 
cluded by understanding; but He may be 
loved and chosen by the true loving will. 
Such a blind shot with the sharp dart of long- 
ing love may never miss the mark, the which 
is God. Look that nothing live in thy working 
mind but a naked intent stretching into the 

For another thing, Lent suggests most eloquently 
the need and value of some definite method for the 
culture of the inner life. Here is the great defect of our 



age. No wonder so few of us ever get beyond the native 
and instinctive religion which is an endowment, and 
cannot be shaken off. In other things we have method, 
system, discipline, technique. No lawyer tries to prac- 
tice at haphazard, with no regard for the decisions of 
courts or the masters of the law. Yet that is what we 
do in our life of faith. Not many of us know even the 
names of the great religious masterpieces those pas- 
tures of the soul, so rich in beauty and wisdom. What 
a treasure of insight and experience, what noble com- 
panionship, what high leadership and yet it is left 
unused. Volumes could not tell the folly of this neglect 
of the arts and offices of the soul whereby spiritual 
reality is made real. The wonder is not that wet have 
misgivings, but that we have any faith at all, so little 
care do we take to keep it alive in our hearts. 

Here again let me speak frankly, not to hurt, but, if 
it may be, to help. Some of us, women for the most 
part, take up with the cult of the esoteric or of some 
other sort, and spend some time each day reading its 
books. This is a start in the right direction but such 
books, mere rubbish and hodgepodge, bereft of beauty, 
devoid of insight, with never a glint of genius! Sup- 
pose one should study art in that manner. Suppose opte 
should leave out of account Angelo, Rembrandt and 
Raphael, and take up with some poor dauber. That 
would not be more pathetic than what some restless, 
troubled minds are doing. They have never employed 
methods in studying the great Christian religion, but 
must follow some wandering marsh-light. What a spec- 
tacle! If anyone wishes an inspiring optimism, radiant 



and serene, let him go to Emerson who had authentic 
genius and power. Better still, let him devote the hours 
wasted on poor scribblers to the book that shows uSj 
as in a mirror, what we are, and what we ought to be. 

Then, too, Lent asks us to look into our own hearts 
and face what we find there, though it may make us 
shudder. One of our comfortable essayists said the other 
day that people in our day are not troubling about 
their sins. That is only too true; and it might be very 
well but for the fact that their sins will never cease to 
trouble them. With what terrible intensity of insight 
Ibsen has made us see that sin, no matter how it is ex- 
cused or hidden, troubles not only ourselves but those 
yet unborn ghastly Ghosts that will not down. If a 
great outside teacher, who can hardly be said to have 
had any faith in God, drives this fact home to men, 
surely the pulpit is remiss when it does not emphasize 
it. There were with us only a few years ago two such 
teachers of the very first order, Ibsen and Tolstoi. Now 
they are both gone, and there is no other who comes 
within sight of them. 

Whatever else may be said of Ibsen, he was one of 
the greatest rulers and interpreters of the human spirit. 
So long as men dare to see life as it is, he will be read. 
He tore away ruthlessly the masks and veils with which 
men hide the fact of sin in the heart, and made us view 
with uncovered eyes the uncovered horror. He showed 
the insecurity and ultimate impossibility of any life 
that is founded upon a lie. It cannot stand. It is a house 
built upon the sand. Further, this stern teacher goes 
down into the dim depths of the soul and finds that sin 


exists there, and that while men spend much time in 
cloaking it, it never can finally be hidden. What a tonic 
he is, after reading the rosewater theology of our day, 
which either ignores sin or seeks to disinfect it with an 
easy-going optimism. 

Not so Ibsen. He preaches sin as a terrific reality, 
and he knows the agony of its inner wound but, alas! 
he has no hope that it can be cleansed away. Confes- 
sion he knows, but not the music of the gospel fact 
of forgiveness and healing. He preaches as few have 
ever preached the truth 

Could my zeal no respite know, 
Could my tears forever flow, 
All for sin could not atone 

and there he stops, as so much of the preaching of our 
time does. He sees no hope save in death, and that is 
why in six of his ten plays men and women invoke 
death by their own hands. Like all really profound 
thinkers, he saw the great fact of sacrifice, and espe- 
cially the free sacrifice of the innocent for the guilty. 
Yet, sadly enough, he did not see the meaning of die 
Great Sacrifice, and so go on to finish the lines 
Thou must save, and Thou alone. 

Has the gospel of our age lost the rhythm of that line? 
If so, however liberal it may be, however brilliant, it is 
no Gospel at all. 

When the thoughts of men are turned toward the 
cross, let us look into our hearts in the light of the life 
and sacrifice of Jesus. God of mercy! what vile and 
slimy things a man finds in his heart when he sees it as 



it is, in that soft, sure, penetrating light! He sees all that 
Ibsen saw, and more too. How his respectability van- 
ishes! How his towering vanity comes tumbling down 
into the dust! Yet it is a kindly light, not only pure 
but purifying, with health and healing in its rays. It 
shows a great horror, but it gives us a great hope. Once 
a year, at the least, a man should examine the house 
of his heart and see what kind of spirit lives there 
and that is the meaning of Lent. It demands that we 
fling away the spectacles of pretense, and face our souls 
in the light. 

Such a meeting with his own soul is good for a man, 
whether he be in the pulpit or the pew. It helps him 
to see things as they really are himself included, if so 
he may bestir himself to be other and better than he Is. 
More than all, it induces a true humility of spirit, which 
is the beginning of wisdom and of righteousness. With 
me, the question is how to live before death so as to 
be worthy to live after it. Often it is a matter of grave 
doubt with me whether it is worth while to continue the 
experiment of such a life as mine. Until it is nobler and 
more Christlike than it is, that doubt must remain at 
once a perplexity and a provocation to effort. 

It is good to be last, not first, 

Pending the present distress; 
It is good to hunger and thirst, 

So it be for righteousness. 

It is good to spend and be spent, 
It is good to watch and to pray; 

Life and Death make a goodly Lent, 
So it lead to Easter Day. 

The Immortal Life 

From a volume entitled "If I Had Only One 
Sermon to Preach on Immortalitf; edited by W. L. 
Stidger; used by permission of Harper and 


Jesus said unto her, I am the Resur- 
rection, and the Life: he that believ- 
eth in me, though he were dead, yet 
shall he live: and whosoever liveth 
and believeth m me shall never die. 
Believest thou this? 

John 11:25, 26. 

the Christian Year: the Day of Eternal Life. The sweet 
order of Easter Day is blended with a beautiful con- 
fusion, in which the mysteries of religion are mixed 
with the mysteries of nature; and that is as it should 
be, because it is the day of the Cosmic Christ the 
mighty Lord of Life and Death and all that lies between 
and beyond. 

Out of a red sunset an Oriental poet once saw a 
friend riding over the desert toward his tent, wrapped 
in glory like a heavenly halo, and the poet exclaimed, 
"Glory to the Almighty, the sun has risen in the West!" 
Out of the crimson sunset on Good Friday, its horror 
and its heroism, the Risen Christ comes riding in 
majesty today, the best Friend of the human heart, and 



we cry out, "Glory to the Almighty, the sun has risen 
in the West!" 

Out of death comes Life; out of agony comes joy; 
out of defeat, victory; out of sunset, dawn. Where we 
had least hope of sunrise, "the Son of Righteousness 
arises with healing in His wings/' in fulfillment of his 
own tremendous words: 

tf l am the Resurrection, and the Life: he 
that betieveth in me, though he were dead, 
yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and 
believeth in me shall never die. Believest 
thou this?' 

How often, alas, we have heard those words as a 
part of the Office of the Burial of the Dead; and it was 
so I first heard them as a tiny lad when my father was 
buried. Clinging to the hand of my little mother, on 
that snowy day I looked for the first time into an open 
grave, and it seemed that everything was lost as if 
the bottom had dropped out of life. Then the kindly old 
country preacher began the service: "I am the Resurrec- 
tion, and the Life," never shall I forget the thrill of 
those words! It was as if a great, gentle Hand, stronger 
than the hand of man and more tender than the hand 
of woman, had been put forth from the unseen to help 
and heal from that day to this I have loved Jesus to 
distraction! Forty-six years later I stood on the same 
spot, when the little mother whose hand I held in days 
that come not back was laid away; and again the words, 
"I am the Resurrection, and the Life," spoke to me out 


of the depths of death nay, out of the heart of God! 
and there was sunrise in the west! 

Of all expositions of those words the noblest is the 
picture, by Browning, of the death of St. John the Evan- 
gelist of Love, the last of the glorious company of the 
Apostles, and the only one to die a natural death. The 
little knot of disciples stood around watching the great 
head sink lower and yet lower, until at last the flame 
of life flickered, and, as it seemed, went out. Loneli- 
ness, like a cold, crawling sea mist, filled their hearts, 
for there was no one left who had seen the face of 
Jesus; no one who could say, "I heard his voice," 
and how much had been left untold! Desperately the 
little group tried to coax back a tiny spark of life, but 
in vain, till a lad ran for a copy of the Gospel, found 
the page, and read, "I am the Resurrection, and the 
Life." Hearing the Voice of his Lord, the seemingly 
dead man sat up and poured out his soul in one last 
luminous talk 

What stupendous words, "I am the Resurrection, and 
the Life/' and how utterly empty and unreal, if not 
wildly insane, upon the lips of the gentle, winsome 
humanitarian Christ who, however heroic and fasci- 
nating, is only one of ourselves purer, braver, more 
unearthly yet guessing at the riddle of life as we have 
to do, knowing nothing certainly of his own destiny or 
ours, himself a victim of muddy, all-devouring Death, 
which seems to divide divinity with God. No! No! Here 
speaks the Master of Life and Death, the Lord of 
worlds other than this orb of dust, the Revealer of the 
meaning of life, a Voice out of the heart of things a 



Voice not simply of comfort, but of command. Here 
shines a Light that never was on sea or land, fairer than 
the prophet-vision, brighter than the poet-dream. 
Nevertheless, this Being who towers so far above us is 
still so close to our humanity, his whole life so entwined 
with our piteous, passionate, and pathetic life on earth, 
that we somehow feel that what is true of him is in 
some degree true, potentially, of ourselves. How these 
two truths can be united may be hard to know save in 
a paradox profounder than thought but they are 
equally vivid, equally valid, and equally blessed in our 
historic Christian faith; and to lose either truth is to 
lose the other. Here, to say it once more, is the highest 
reach of holiness in man answered by a Voice older 
than the earth and deeper than death: 

Before Abraham was, I am life endless at both 
ends, moving with a higher rhythm, stretching away 
into unfathomable depths and distances; one vast Life 
that Jives and cannot die, gathering all our broken 
lights into its eternal radiance. 

I am the Light of the World the sun is up; shadows 
of death and dark fatality flee away; blind thoughts we 
know not nor can name are forgotten like fear in the 
night. It is daybreak; life everywhere is radiant earth 
is a valley with a lark-song over it. 

I am the Way the path marked out for the soul; 
the way without which there is no going, to lose which 
is to wander in a wilderness, or end in a blind alley; 
the Way which, if we follow it faithfully, shineth more 
and more unto the perfect day. 

/ am the Truth the truth about life and death, which 



"breaks through language and escapes; the truth that 
makes all other truth true; nay, more, the Truth that 
can never be uttered, but must be acted, incarnated; the 
truth that sets life to music. 

I am the Life the Life that interprets life; no mere 
story of life, but Life itself intense, creative, palpitat- 
ing, prophetic; life in a new dimension, with a new 
radiance, overflowing, sweeping dim death away as in 
a flood of light and power and joy. 

/ am the Good Shepherd the Shepherd of ages and 
journeying generations, whose heart aches with com- 
passion for the multitudes who wander far, seeking 
without finding; the mighty Shepherd in whose bosom 
the lambs find a haven and a home. 

/ am the Door the Door out of night into dawn; 
the Door into Another Room in the House not made 
with hands, "our dwelling place in all generations"; 
the sheltering home of all souls, however far-wander- 
ing, where we shall see "that one Face" and be satis- 
fied. "Behold, I have set before you an open door, and 
no man can shut it." 

/ am the Resurrection, and the Lije death is abol- 
ished, as the radio abolishes distance; it no longer 
exists, save as a cloud-shadow wandering across the 
human valley. "Let not your heart be troubled, neither 
let it be afraid," death is other than we think or fear. 

Behold, I am alive for evermore the word of One 
who has death behind him, never to face it again a 
thing left below, defeated and outsped having passed 
through its shadow, making a path of light "which 
shineth more and more unto the perfect day." 



Now, consider. No one else has ever spoken such 
words to humanity; no one can do it. Never once does 
Jesus say, "I believe/' as we must needs do, praying help 
for our unbelief. No. "I am the Resurrection, and the 
Life" it is not merely an anthem pf affirmation; it is a 
revelation of another order, rhythm and cadence of life. 
He does not argue; he unveils the truth. He does not 
promise immortality in some dim, far time beyond; he 
illumines it, bringing both "life and immortality to 
light/* It is not only a prophecy but a possession such 
a reversal of faith, such a transvaluation of values as 
baffles thought and bewilders imagination. "I am the 
Resurrection": God is here, Eternity is now, Death is 
nothing to the soul it is a staggering truth, so vast 
that our minds seem unable to grasp and hold it. Once 
we do grasp it, once we do lay it to heart and knolv its 
power, then we know the meaning of the words, "Be- 
hold, I make all things new." Life everyway is infinite; 
the sky begins at the top of the ground. O my soul, re- 
member, consider, and rejoice in God thy Saviour! 

Here is the song of the immortal life, breaking in 
upon our broken days and years, gathering our fugitive 
and fragmentary lives into its sovereign harmony, if we 
have ears to hear and hearts to heed and understand. 
Slowly, upon our dim eyes, blinded by dusty death, 
there dawns the vision of a Spiritual Order in which 
all the holy things of life its higher values, its haunt- 
ing prophecies have their source, sanction, security, 
and satisfaction. To the reality of that realm all the 
noblest creative life of humanity bears witness dimly 
or clearly and from it the purest souls of the race 



have drawn inward sustaining. Of that Order "the Lord 
of all Good Life" was and is a citizen; its laws were 
revealed in his life; its meaning spoke in his words 
pitched not in the past nor in the future, but in "the 
mystic tense"; its light became incandescent in his 
personality. By its sovereign power he was Master of 
disease, discord, and dark fatality nay, more, of Life 
and Time and Death; in its fellowship he still lives and 
serves humanity, a thousand times more alive than in 
the days of his flesh. By the Power of Spirit his swift 
and gentle years moved with the lilt of a lyric, and even 
the tragedy of his death in which he faced the worst 
and found the best became the epic of the life ever- 

As Dante said, Jesus taught us "how to make our 
lives eternal," and if we learn his secret we shall know 
neither fret nor fear. In prayer, in glad obedience, in 
high adventure giving all, daring all he drew the 
fullness of God into his life, fulfilling what others had 
dreamed. By the wonder of his personality he released 
a new power in human life "the power of an endless 
life" power over sin, over sorrow, over brute matter 
and black despair. Here lies the secret of social sta- 
bility and nobility, no less than of triumphant charac- 
ter. Half a life ago Dostoievski foretold the orgy of 
modern Russia anarchy running mad and running red 
when, in The Possessed, one of his characters cries 
out, prophetically: 

"Listen, I've reckoned them all up; a 
teacher who laughs with children at their 



God is on our side. The juries who acquit 
every criminal are ours. Among officials and 
literary men we have lots, lots, and they 
don't know it themselves. Do you know how 
many we shall catch with little, ready-made 
ideas? The Russian God has already been 
vanquished with cheap vodka. The peasants 
are drunk, the churches are empty. Oh, this 
generation has only to grow up. Ah, what a 
pity there is no proletariat. But there will be, 
there will be; we are going that way/' 

What happened in Russia will happen among us, 
when we let the altar fires of our fathers go out and 
our faith fail. All the dear interests and institutions of 
humanity have their basis in the eternal life, else they 
cannot abide. Our human world is kept in place and 
urged along its orbit by unseen forces. Thence come 
those impulses to progress, those insights and aspira- 
tions, which impel man to vaster issues they are the 
pressure upon him of the endless life. Liberty, justice, 
love, truth are things of the eternal life, without 
which customs are cobwebs and laws are ropes of sand. 
Toward the end of his life Dostoievski divided the race 
into two classes, those who know the eternal life and 
those who do not, and the fate of civilization, he said, 
will rest with those who are citizens of eternity. The 
power of an endless life is thus the creative and con- 
structive force of humanity, and when it is lost society 
becomes a pig-sty. 

Here, no less, is the secret of spiritual character and 


personality, the two loveliest flowers grown in these 
short days of sun and frost. Only recently a great physi- 
' dan said that subconscious health cannot be obtained 
in one who has lost faith in immortality. Without it 
the noblest powers of the soul are inhibited, its finest 
instincts are frustrated, having no happy release and 
no promise of fulfillment. When we know the Eternal 
Life, all doors are open and the great aspirations of the 
heart take wings. The impingement of Eternity upon 
u$' gives to the moral sense an august authority, and 
makes religion not a dogma, but an Eternal Commu- 
nion. Life everywhere grows in dignity, meaning, worth 
and grace when it is lived in the fellowship of eternal 
things. The Power of an Endless Life it is the life of 
faith, of love, of fellowship, of joy. It makes a man 
stand up like a tower, four-square to all the winds of 
the world, a defense to the weak or the weary. It is 
one with all dear friendships, with every tender tie 
which unites us with those nearest to us, with every 
bond of sympathy binding us to humanity aye, with 
those whom we have loved and lost awhile. 

What life really is, what it prophesies, what it may 
actually become even here on earth transfiguring all 
"our fleshly dress with bright shoots of everlasting- 
ness" is shown us in the life of Jesus; by the truth he 
taught, and still more by his personality. He was so 
aglow with the power and joy of life, so in tune with its 
vivid, creative urge and insight, that his words seem 
to have a life of their own, and grow. He was a spirit- 
ual biologist who thought of religion in terms of life 
not of life in terms of religion and he hardly used die 


word death at all; since death is not an event but a 
tendency, and true life is the death of death. By his 
death Jesus gave life to his religion, and by his resur- 
rection he made religion a life, even the Eternal Life 
in time, free, radiant, abundant, creative, victorious a 
quest, a conquest, a consecration. 

In literature there is an exalted zone of song wherein 
if a man step his footfall echoes forever, defying time 
and change and death; and thus the echo of an hour 
of prayer among the Judean hills, or a lyric sung at a 
Greek festival, becomes a part of the eternal speech of 
mankind. Just so, there is in the life of the spirit a level 
of loyalty, of luminous lucidity, of immaculate percep- 
tion, of all-giving love, which joins the mortal to the 
immortal, and death is seen to be only the shadow of 
life as it spreads its wings for flight; only a dark room 
in which life changes its robe and marches on. Others 
enter that realm, briefly, in rare hours of insight and 
understanding, when the mood is pure and the vision 
is clear; but Jesus lived in it, obeyed its laws, unveiled 
its reality and revealed its emancipating truth. Hence 
the strange, searching, haunting, healing quality of his 
words, which seem like birds let loose from a region 
above our reach of which we are dimly aware, and 
toward which both wisdom and faith point. Hence, 
too, the refrain that echoes through his teaching: "He 
that hath ears to hear, let him hear." 

From that radiant realm, in the rhythm of its pro- 
found and transcendent experience of God, Jesus spoke 
the words, / am the Resurrection, and the Life, Such 


words are notes in an eternal world-song, a Divine 
Symphony which began when the morning stars sang 
together over a new-born earth, and which runs through 
all things. It is the Song of Life itself, underflowing all 
the tumult and tragedy of time, upbearing the life and 
death of humanity its sins and woes, its griefs and 
heartaches and lifting all at last into the rhythm and 
cadence of an Eternal Life; an august undertone pro- 
phetic of a final harmony of all things with God. All 
religions, all philosophies are but broken echoes of one 
everlasting music, prose versions of a Divine Poetry 
singing even "in the mud and scum of things/ 1 an 
all-sustaining, undefeatable melody: 

It singeth low in every heart, 
We hear it each and all. 

At last, rising above all discord and seeming defeat, 
it will break in triumphant anthems of adoration upon 
the throne of God, proclaiming that "life is ever lord of 
death and love can never lose its own/' Believest thou 

By the same token, if we would know the power of 
an endless life, defeating death and dull dismay, it 
must be by contact and fellowship with the Lord of 
Life. Ever the path lies at our feet, if we follow on 
to realize the life that is triumphant, and the road 
mounts steadily: "And this is life eternal, that they 
might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, 
whom thou hast sent." For Thou, O God, art Life, Thou 
art Reality, and Thou art our Father. 


Safe in the care of heavenly powers, 
The good we dreamed but might not do, 
Lost beauty magically new, 

Shall spring as surely as the flowers 
When, 'micl the sobbing of the rain, 
The heart of April beats again. 

Celestial spirit that doth roll 
The heart's sepulchral stone away, 
Be this our resurrection day, 

The singing Easter of the Soul: 
O gentle Master of the Wise, 
Teach me to say, "I will arise!"